World History/Ancient Civilizations

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The Neolithic Revolution and Early Agricultural Societies[edit | edit source]

Reconstruction of Neolithic housing.

Early nomadic hunter-gatherers lived off the land and had a minimal effect on the environment around them. Around 10,000 years ago people started to settle down and developed agriculture possibly in response to a warming climate. The origin of agriculture is often referred to as the Neolithic Revolution. Keep in mind that different societies domesticated plants and animals, and consequently agriculture, independently i.e. Mesopotamia, Nile River Valley, Ancient China. These farmers had to overcome obstacles such as dry land with technologies like large scale irrigation. These large agricultural byproducts, irrigation, had a large impact on the environment. Pastoralism, the branch of agriculture concerned with raising livestock, developed in Afro-Eurasian grassland, negatively affecting the environment when pastures were overgrazed.

The switch to agriculture created a much more reliable and abundant food source which allowed populations to soar. This led to diversification of labor which meant that food requirements could be on the backs of certain people and new classes like artisans or warriors could develop. These people developed technologies like pottery, metallurgy or plows.

The Development and Interactions of Early Societies[edit | edit source]

About 5,000 years ago the first urban societies developed laying the foundations for the first civilizations. Nearly all civilizations share the same few features—they have abundant food surpluses, contained cities, political bureaucracies, armies, defined religious and social hierarchies and long distance trading.

Civilization makes its debut (8000 - 3000 BC)[edit | edit source]

Natufian mortars used for grinding.

Neolithic means "new stone", even though agriculture was the crowning achievement of the period. Civilizations started out small. Agriculture at first tended to tie only small groups together. These groups also all settled along rivers, important as a reliable and predictable source of water. As time passed, families usually worked the same plot of land over successive generations, leading to the concept of ownership.

Remains of a Natufian house

The earliest examples of settlements date to about 12000 BC to 9500 BC, and seem to predate agriculture. These settlements, termed Natufian, suggest cultivation of rye. The first such excavation was at Tell Es-Sultan, just outside of Jericho.

Ancient mortars and grinding tools unearthed in a large mound in the Zagros Mountains of Iran reveal that people were grinding wheat and barley about 11,000 years ago. Grass pea, wild wheat, wild barley, and lentils were found throughout the site, including some of the earliest known samples. This was much further east than most sites known for early agriculture. These were found with stone figurines in levels where earthen buildings had been flattened and destroyed, as though civilization had kept building atop their own ruins, or re-purposing land, as needs changed.

Evidence in the middle east shows pottery styles moving throughout the Arabian peninsula, especially during the late Halaf-Ubaid period, where painted pottery and flint arrowheads have been discovered in great number. Pottery decorations are used to indicate trade and cultural contact, or widespread immigration during this period. The excavations on Dalma Island in the Persian gulf show the first date stones (pits from a fruit known to be from a widely cultivated palm in the middle east) known from a human settlement, approximately 5000 BC and may be the precursor to agriculture. Interestingly, at this same site, bones were found from long-tail tuna, dolphin, dugong and turtle, gazelle, needle-fish, grouper, sea bream, emperor, and jack. Some of the groupers found would have been nearly a meter long, indicating considerable fishing skill.

As agriculture became more and more widespread, people began to accumulate surpluses of food, meaning that a single family grew more than it consumed. At the same time, the increasing tendency to remain in a single location put pressure on groups to protect themselves from other still nomadic peoples. In addition, when peoples stayed rooted near one another, cultural and social bonds began to form. People began to do things in similar ways (it is a property of human nature to want to belong). Because of these factors, especially a surplus of food, labor began to specialize and branch out away from just farming. When everyone did not have to farm all of the time to live, people began to become artisans and craftsmen. Such developments also brought trade, and a class of merchants. Merchants often traveled along the same routes. Also, within individual villages, artisans contributed to the homogenization of culture. Merchants caused further interaction and exchange, known as Cultural Diffusion. Human religion also began to evolve. Rising above the past nomadic "religions", cultures developed a unified polytheism within their ranks, which led them to further bond themselves together. Priests became a class as well. As you can see, specialization of labor was a direct offshoot of an agricultural surplus.

The new societies had one problem, however: now that the labor was specialized, agricultural surpluses had to happen every year without a break if the new culture was to remain intact. In stepped governments to fill the void. Government most likely began with religious leaders, such as priests, exercising control. Governments also provided roads for their citizens and merchants. They further cemented the bonds between people within villages and regions, unifying culture to the point that it might be called a civilization. However, governments needed a way to pay the laborers who built and worked on their projects. Taxes thus first, perhaps unfortunately, appeared on the scene, usually in the form of a tax-in-kind (taking a portion of a product, such as grain from a farmer, the use of money was yet to appear). Suddenly, all the parts of an ancient civilization appeared. Governments soon fell into a type of system known as a monarchy, or rule by hereditary leaders (such as kings or princes). The reason for this was two-fold: monarchy came naturally because it was like the family, with the parents on top and the children beneath; eventually the parents grew old and the children became adults and parents in their own right and the cycle continued. Secondly, monarchy was predictable and reliable. In an age without mass communication or speedy travel, it was important for any void left by the death of a leader to be filled quickly, without fuss and strife. Most of the new governments were, however, small city-states, or independent countries composed of a city and some surrounding farmland. This was the beginning of the world's oldest civilizations in Ancient Mesopotamia.

An insight into the spread of farming:

The spread of farming and early domestication of plants and animals was extensive, as the practices expanded from three specific regions (7000 BC) of the world to various other regions, spreading to five continents by the year 3000 BC. Agriculture first started in the Middle East around 10,000-9500 BC. By 7000 BC it had spread to the western part of the Indian subcontinent, and by 6000 BC to Egypt. By 5000 BC, it had reached China, and around 2700 BC, corn was being farmed in Mesoamerica. The Middle East, covering the areas of modern day Turkey, Iraq, Palestine, and Israel, had domesticated cattle and pigs. They were also successful in the domestication and farming of several crops and plants like wheat, barley, rye, onions, peas, and grapes. The Mesoamericans had begun farming corn, beans, avocados, squash, pumpkins, and cotton. They had not domesticated any animals. In the Andes region (Peru), potatoes, tomatoes, lima beans, peanuts, and sweet potatoes were farmed. The Andeans had also domesticated the llama. The spread in the Middle East had the greatest expansion in terms of area. Sheep were domesticated in the greater Middle East; goats were originally domesticated in Central Europe, olives in the Mediterranean. Cotton was first farmed in the Indian sub-continent, and hemp, camels, and buckwheat were originally domesticated west of the Caspian Sea. Furthermore, in the Americas, the Mesoamericans expanded north and south, spreading farming and herding to Central and slightly further into North America. From there the practice extended to South America. The Andeans had minimum spread, expanding farming and herding to regions immediately around theirs. The farming and domestication of plants and animals, by 3000 BC, had been independently innovated in Southeast Asia, China, and North-central Africa. In Southeast Asia, rice, citrus, and chickens were originally farmed and domesticated. The farming of millet and soybean was practiced in China. Sorghum and coffee were farmed originally in north-central Africa. In a brief period of 4000 years, humans had farmed and domesticated over 30 plants and animals. The spread of farming and herding had reached over five continents, and ten regions of the world.

River Valley Civilizations[edit | edit source]

The first civilizations came about in river valleys which provided a constant source of water for crops. Irrigation works were often needed which required leadership perhaps leading to the creation of the first states. In addition rivers facilitated travel helping a common culture spread along its banks. The four river valley civilizations were the world’s first and each shared many common characteristics. The four river valley civilizations: China (along the Yellow River aka Huáng Hé) Indus Valley (along the Indus River) Mesopotamia (along the Tigris and Euphrates river) Egypt (along the Nile)

Each Civilization had:

  • A form of writing
  • Cities
  • Agriculture and surplus of food
  • A form of government (usually claiming divine right)
  • A polytheistic or henotheistic religion
  • Art and Architecture

Whereas historians argue on what exactly civilization is, writing, cities, agriculture, government, religion and art are usually on the list.

Ancient Mesopotamia[edit | edit source]

While the earliest agricultural tools are known from beneath Jericho, approximately 7000 BC, further signs of civilization and tool making quickly cropped up across the Zagros mountain range.

The Halaf civilization (estimates vary but generally run either from 6100-5100 BC or 5100-4100 BC) is known from a number of different locations, primarily in Syria where pottery has been found. The different types of designs found in specific locations especially Tel Sabi Abyad) seem to indicate a significant trade, or possibly migration from the surrounding mountains. During the Halaf period, a variety of grains and herbs (including barley, emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, free threshing wheat, oats, hawthorne, crosswort flax, lentils, legumes, cornelian cherry, clover, sweet clover, fleawort, field peas, linseed, wild olive, pistachio, grape, fig and hawthorn were commonly found at the archaeological site at Ras Shamra in northwest Syria.

Halaf pottery has been found as far as the earliest cities in Sumer.

Sumerian art depicting the King of Ur.

Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) was home to the world's first truly urban cultures -- societies featuring permanent cities whose populations were fed from the surrounding countryside, but themselves engaged in other activities besides agriculture, such as trade, specialist crafts and record-keeping. From 4000 to 3000 BC, the Sumerians established some of the first known cities in the then-moist land of Sumer (modern southern Iraq, called Ki-en-gir by the Sumerians). It is not currently known with certainty where the Sumerians came from, but immigration from elsewhere seems probable; their myths suggested a seafaring background. From an anthropological viewpoint Sumerians belonged to the Caucasian, Mediterranean, Balkan European race.

Historians speculate that the first Sumerian settlers may have been driven by overpopulation or conflict, as Sumeria was superficially inhospitable to stone-age man; it lacked the stones needed in Neolithic life to make most tools. However, the early Sumerians discovered that mud could be dried and used as a building material, and the soil was rich in clay to use to make farm tools. Once the Sumerians began to plant, they realized that Sumeria's rich mud yielded far greater quantities of food than they could consume. This surplus resulted in some of the first known exports in history.

Situated near the head of the Persian Gulf, Sumer was well-positioned for sea trade, as well as having land connections to neighboring Anatolia and Elam (modern southern Iran), both of which harbored simpler cultures. The early Sumerians began to trade their surplus grain with their neighbors for the items that Sumeria did not have, such as livestock and stone. This influx of goods (and therefore merchants) gave rise to some of the first true cities. Sumerian cities spoke the same language and worshipped the same gods. However, they were not one, with whole cities being burnt to the ground in their inter-city warfare. A typical run-of-the-mill city-state consisted of the city proper and much of the countryside around it. Early Sumerian government was strictly theocratic, and governed everything from sacrifices to taxation to irrigation. Therefore, the central point of each city was its great platform/ziggurat in the centre. These ziggurats became the main form of the later Babylonian monument architecture in the same region.

Writing in its strictest sense was first invented and used by the Mesopotamians around 3100 BC. It evolved out of a Mesopotamian trade tradition. When two merchants made an agreement, they would make clay models of the items being traded and then would seal them in a clay ball. However, if one of the merchants wanted to double check the quantities agreed upon in the contract, the merchants would need to break open the clay ball, literally breaking the contract. Therefore, the merchants began to scratch little picture of the items onto the outside of the clay ball. Eventually someone realized that the ball and models were no longer necessary. Later the Sumerians created more symbols for use in writing down laws and eventually even stories. This form of writing was called cuneiform.

As many as a thousand clay tablets were found in the Uruk archaeological layer dating to the 30th century B.C. From Sumer, cuneiform script and civilization spread to all the peoples of Asia Minor (Assyrians, Hittites, Urartuans, etc). For instance, the ancient Asomtavruli alphabet of the modern Georgian language has ethno-cultural contacts with the Sumerian world. Georgian specialists study the similarity of Sumerian and Iberian-Caucasian languages. Sumerian remained the language of religion and science in the 2nd-1st millennium B.C. before its replacement by Semitic languages. But Sumerian did not confide the Semites with the Majuscule alphabet, the secret spiritual alphabet that has a lot of similarity to ancient Georgian Asomtavruli alphabet. More than 200 Sumerian and Svanian terms are identical both phonetically and semantically. Sumerians created a new simplified 22 simple letter-signs alphabet. The Semitic alphabet created by Sumerian scientists for Accadians laid the foundation for various people's writing creation and spreading (Moabs, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Greeks, Latins, Arabs and others) Sumerian sacral alphabet of 35 letter signs that concealed the Sun and the Moon calendar.

After flourishing for the better part of a millennium, Mesopotamia apparently experienced a climate change, which led to drought, exhaustion of the heavily-used soil, agricultural failure, and the decline of the Sumerian city-states that had become dependent on reliable surplus food production. Neighbouring peoples and tribes launched military incursions against the weakened city-states, resulting in political power shifts and the rise of new states and cities further north. Sumerologist Samuel Noah Kramer wrote "in the last quarter of the 3rd millennium B.C. the Semites inhabiting the town of Akkad conquered Sumer and made the Sumerian scientists create an alphabet for them, which subsequently came to be called the Semitic" This event took place in 2125 B.C.

The Akkadians: The First Empire[edit | edit source]

Bronze head depicting an Akkadian ruler.

Origins of Akkad[edit | edit source]

Semitic speakers seem to have already been present in Mesopotamia at the dawn of the historical record, and soon achieved preeminence with the first Dynasty of Kish and numerous localities to the north of Sumer—where rulers with Semitic names had already established themselves by ca. the 3rd millennium BC. One of these, contemporary with the last Sumerian ruler, Lugal-Zage-Si of Uruk, was Alusarsid (or Urumus) who "subdued Elam and Barahs (Barahsi?)" thus beginning the trend towards regional empire.

The first known mention of Akkad is in an inscription of Enshakushanna of Uruk, where he claims to have defeated Agade—indicating that it was in existence well before the days of Sargon of Akkad, who the Sumerian kinglist claims to have built it. Sargon has often been cited as the first ruler of a combined empire of Akkad and Sumer, although more recently discovered data suggests there had been Sumerian expansions under previous kings, including Lugal-Anne-Mundu of Adab, Eannatum of Lagash, and Lugal-Zage-Si.

Sargon and his sons[edit | edit source]

The fame of the early establisher of Semitic supremacy was far eclipsed by that of Sargon of Akkad (Sharru-kin = "legitimate king", probably a title he took on gaining power[5]) (23rd century BC), who defeated and captured Lugal-Zage-Si, conquering his empire.

The earliest records in Akkadian all date to the time of Sargon. Sargon was claimed to be the son of La'ibum or Itti-Bel, a humble gardener, and possibly a hierodule, prostitute, or priestess to Ishtar or Inanna.

One legend related of Sargon in neo-Assyrian times says that "My mother was a changeling, my father I knew not. The brothers of my father loved the hills. My city is Azurpiranu (the wilderness herb fields), which is situated on the banks of the Euphrates. My changeling mother conceived me, in secret she bore me. She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen she sealed my lid. She cast me into the river which rose not over me. The river bore me up and carried me to Akki, the drawer of water. Akki, the drawer of water, took me as his son and reared me. Akki the drawer of water, appointed me as his gardener. While I was gardener Ishtar granted me her love, and for four and (fifty?) ... years I exercised kingship."

Originally a cupbearer to a king of Kish with a Semitic name, Ur-Zababa, Sargon thus became a gardener, responsible for the task of clearing out irrigation canals. This gave him access to a disciplined corps of workers, who also may have served as his first soldiers. Displacing Ur-Zababa, the crown was set upon Sargon's head, and he entered upon a career of foreign conquest.[7] Four times he invaded Syria and Canaan, and he spent three years thoroughly subduing the countries of "the west" to unite them with Mesopotamia "into a single empire."

However, Sargon took this process further, conquering many of the surrounding regions to create an empire that reached as far as the Mediterranean Sea and Anatolia, and extending his rule to Elam, and as far south as Magan (Oman), an area over which he reigned for 56 years. Trade extended from the silver mines of Anatolia to the lapis lazuli mines in Afghanistan, the cedars of Lebanon and the copper of Oman. This consolidation of the city-states of Sumer and Akkad reflected the growing economic and political power of Mesopotamia. The empire's breadbasket was the rain-fed agricultural system of northern Mesopotamia and a chain of fortresses was built to control the imperial wheat production.

Images of Sargon were erected on the shores of the Mediterranean, in token of his victories, and cities and palaces were built at home with the spoils of the conquered lands. Elam and the northern part of Mesopotamia (Subartu) were also subjugated and rebellions in Sumer were put down. Contract tablets have been found dated in the years of the campaigns against Canaan and against Sarlak, king of Gutium.

Sargon, throughout his long life, showed special deference to the Sumerian deities, particularly Inanna, his patroness, and Zababa, the warrior god of Kish. He called himself "The anointed priest of Anu" and "the great ensi of Enlil" and his daughter, Enheduanna the famous poet, was installed as priestess to Nanna at the temple in Ur.

He also boasted of having subjugated the "four quarters"—the lands surrounding Akkad to the north (Subartu), the south (Sumer), the east (Elam) and the west (Martu). Some of the earliest texts credit him with rebuilding the city of Babylon (Bab-ilu) in a new location.

Troubles multiplied toward the end of his reign. A later Babylonian text states "In his old age, all the lands revolted against him, and they besieged him in Akkad (the city)"...but "he went forth to battle and defeated them, he knocked them over and destroyed their vast army". Also shortly after, "the Subaru (mountainous tribes of) the upper country—in their turn attacked, but they submitted to his arms, and Sargon settled their habitations, and he smote them grievously".

These difficulties broke out again in the reign of his sons. Revolts broke out during the 9-year reign of his son, Mush, who fought hard to retain the empire—and in the fifteen year reign of Mush's elder brother, Humanist. The latter king seems to have fought a sea battle against 32 kings who had gathered against him. Both appear to have been assassinated.

Naram-Sin[edit | edit source]

Naram-Sin (Beloved of Sin), Sargon's grandson, who assumed the imperial title of "King Naram-Sin, of the four quarters (Lugal Naram-Sin, Šar kibrat 'arbaim)", and, like his grandfather, was addressed as "the god (Sumerian = DIN.GIR, Akkadian = ilu) of Agade" (Akkad), also faced revolts at the start of his reign.

Naram-Sin also recorded the Akkadian conquest of Ebla and Armani (also read Armanum or Armanim). The Assyrians, who are direct descendants of Akkadians, to this day refer to Armenians by the inscription from Armani. They were located between Carchemish and Ebla. To better police this area, he built a royal residence at Tell Brak, a crossroads at the heart of the Khabur basin of the Jezirah. Naram-Sin is supposed to have possessed an army of over 360,000 men, the largest of any state up until that date. It enabled him to campaign against Magan (thought to be Oman) which also revolted; Naram-Sin, "marched against Magan and personally caught Mandannu, its king". The chief threat seemed to be coming from the northeastern mountaineers. A campaign against the Lullubi led to the carving of the famous stele, now in the Louvre. This newfound Akkadian wealth may have been based upon benign climatic conditions, huge agricultural surpluses and the confiscation of the wealth of other peoples.[8]

The economy was highly planned. After the advancing Akkadian forces from Tell Brak took the massive (100 acre) site of Tell Leilan, they destroyed nearby villages and brought the organization of farming and grain distribution into its bureaucratic control. Grain was cleaned, and rations of grain and oil were distributed in standardized vessels made by the city's potters. Taxes were paid in produce and labour on public walls, including city walls, temples, irrigation canals and waterways, producing huge agricultural surpluses. Stele of Naram-Sin, king of Akkad, celebrating his victory against the Lullubi from Zagros.

In later Babylonian texts, the name Akkad, together with Sumer, appears as part of the royal title, as in the Sumerian LUGAL KI.EN.GIRKI URUKI or Akkadian Šar māt Šumeri u Akkadi,[10] translating to "king of Sumer and Akkad". This title was assumed by the king who seized control of Nippur,[11] the intellectual and religious centre of southern Mesopotamia.

During the Akkadian period, the Akkadian language became the lingua franca of the Middle East, and was officially used for administration, although the Sumerian language remained as a literary language. The spread of Akkadian stretched from Syria to Elam, and even the Elamite language was temporarily written in Mesopotamian cuneiform. Akkadian texts later found their way to far-off places, from Egypt (in the Amarna period) and Anatolia, to Persia (Behistun).

Collapse of Akkad[edit | edit source]

Within 100 years the Empire of Akkad collapsed, almost as fast as it had developed, ushering in a Dark Age. By the end of the reign of Naram-Sin's son, Shar-Kali-Sharri, the empire collapsed outright from the invasion of barbarians of the Zagros known as "Gutians". It has recently been suggested that the Dark Age at the end of the Akkadian period (and First Intermediary Period of the Ancient Egyptian Old Kingdom) was associated with rapidly increasing aridity, and failing rainfall in the region of the Ancient Near East, caused by a global centennial-scale drought.[12]

The fall of the empire established by Sargon seems to have been as sudden as its rise, and little is known about the Gutian period. From the fall of Akkad until around 2100 BC, there is much that is still dark.

The Sumerian king list, for the period after the death of Sharkalishari, states:

Who was king? Who was not king? Igigi the king; Nanum, the king; Imi the king; Elulu, the king—the four of them were kings but reigned only three years. Dudu reigned 21 years; Shudurul, the son of Dudu, reigned 15 years. (A total of) 11 kings reigned 197 years. Agade was defeated and its kingship carried off to Uruk. In Uruk, Urnigin reigned 7 years, Irgigir, son of Urnigin, reigned 6 years; Kudda reigned 6 years; Puzur-ili reigned 5 years, Utu-utu reigned 6 years. Uruk was smitten with weapons and its kingship carried off by the Gutian hordes.

(These kings of Uruk may have been contemporaries of the last kings of Akkad.)

In the Gutian hordes, (first reigned) a nameless king; (then) Imta reigned 3 years as king; Shulme reigned 6 years; Elulumesh reigned 6 years; Inimbakesh reigned 5 years; Igeshuash reigned 6 years; Iarlagab reigned 15 years; Ibate reigned 3 years; ... reigned 3 years; Kurum reigned 1 year; ... reigned 3 years; ... reigned 2 years; Iararum reigned 2 years; Ibranum reigned 1 year; Hablum reigned 2 years; Puzur-Sin son of Hablum reigned 7 years; Iarlaganda reigned 7 years; ... reigned 7 years; ... reigned 40 days. Total 21 kings reigned 91 years, 40 days.

Evidence from Tell Leilan in Northern Mesopotamia shows what may have happened. The site was abandoned soon after the city's massive walls were constructed, its temple rebuilt and its grain production reorganised. The debris, dust and sand that followed show no trace of human activity. Soil samples show fine wind-blown sand, no trace of earthworm activity, reduced rainfall and indications of a drier and windier climate. Evidence shows that skeleton-thin sheep and cattle died of drought, and up to 28,000 people abandoned the site, seeking wetter areas elsewhere. Tell Brak shrank in size by 75%. Trade collapsed. Nomadic herders such as the Amorites moved herds closer to reliable water supplies, bringing them into conflict with farmers. This climate-induced collapse seems to have affected the whole of the Middle East, and to have coincided with the collapse of the Egyptian Old Kingdom. A relatively well-known king from that period is Gudea, king of Lagash.

This collapse of rain-fed agriculture in "the Upper Country" meant the loss to southern Mesopotamia of the agrarian subsidies which had kept the Akkadian Empire solvent. Water levels within the Tigris and Euphrates fell 1.5 metres beneath the level of 2600 BC, and although they stabilised for a time during the following Ur III period, rivalries between pastoralists and farmers increased. Attempts were undertaken to prevent the former from herding their flocks in agricultural lands, such as the building of a 180 km wall between the Tigris and Euphrates under the neo-Sumerian ruler Shu-Sin. Such attempts led to increased political instability; meanwhile, severe depopulation occurred to re-establish demographic equilibrium with the less favourable climatic conditions.

It has also been suggested (Burroughs, 2007) that the rapid climatic collapse, marking the Akkadian Dark Age, may have been responsible for the religiously prescribed prohibition against the raising and consumption of pigs that spread through the Ancient Middle East from the end of the third millennium BC.

The period between ca. 2100 BC and 2000 BC is sometimes called the 3rd dynasty of Ur or "Sumerian Renaissance", founded by Ur-Nammu (originally a general). Though documents again began to be written in Sumerian, this dynasty may also have been Semitic; Sumerian was becoming a purely literary or liturgical language, much as Latin later would be in Medieval Europe.

The Curse of Akkad[edit | edit source]

Later material described how the fall of Akkad was due to Naram-Sin's attack upon the city of Nippur. When prompted by a pair of inauspicious oracles, the king sacked the E (temple)E-kur temple, supposedly protected by the god Enlil, head of the pantheon. As a result of this, eight chief deities of the Anunaki pantheon were supposed to have come together and withdrawn their support from Akkad.

For the first time since cities were built and founded,
The great agricultural tracts produced no grain,
The inundated tracts produced no fish,
The irrigated orchards produced neither syrup nor wine,
The gathered clouds did not rain, the masgurum did not grow.
At that time, one shekel's worth of oil was only one-half quart,
One shekel's worth of grain was only one-half quart. . . .
These sold at such prices in the markets of all the cities!
He who slept on the roof, died on the roof,
He who slept in the house, had no burial,
People were flailing at themselves from hunger.

For many years, the events described in "The Curse of Akkad" were thought, like the details of Sargon's birth, to be purely fictional. But now the evidence of Tel Leilan, and recent findings of elevated dust deposits in sea-cores collected off Oman, that date to the period of Akkad's collapse suggest that climate change may have been the culprit

The Babylonians[edit | edit source]

The Babylonians built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and sun baked clay houses. They also introduced the convention of using 360 degrees in a circle, and of dividing the day into 24 hours, and each hour into 60 minutes.

Ancient Andes[edit | edit source]


Valdiva 3500 BCE-1800BCE[edit | edit source]

Valdiva culture were an Andean Civilization of Ecuador. They lived on coastal areas of Guayas. Many of their houses were put into circular positions in the central plaza. They are known for their pottery work. Most of their pottery resembled females. Females possibly held a high position in their society. Valdivia Culture domesticated llamas and cultivated cotton.

Ancient Egypt[edit | edit source]

Map of Ancient Egypt

3100 BC-30 BC

The Protodynastic Period[edit | edit source]

The Old Kingdom[edit | edit source]

The Great Pyramid was built during the Old Kingdom.

The Old Kingdom started circa 2700 BC during Egypt's 3rd dynasty. During this period of Egyptian history the Pharaohs were absolute rulers. It was during the Old Kingdom that the Great Pyramid was built as a tomb for Khufu, a Pharaoh during Egypt's 4th dynasty. The Old Kingdom failed at around 2150 BC for a number of reasons. These included the long life span of Pepi II, who ruled 94 years. Pepi II lived to be about 100 years of age, outliving many of his heirs. Additionally, the lower Nile inundation became irregular and led to failed harvests, which may have been caused by a drier climate.

The First Intermediate Period[edit | edit source]

Monarches competed for control of Egypt and civil wars were common. Famines were common during this period and it is called the dark age of Egyptian History.

The Middle Kingdom[edit | edit source]

Egypt's Middle Kingdom was Egypt's golden age because of trading, and new conquest. It lasted from 2050-1650 BC. The Pharaohs period of this period called themselves good shepherds and they were not as powerful as they were during the Old Kingdom. Their pyramids were smaller. The Middle Kingdom ended because of weak Pharaohs and an invasion by Asiantic people called the Hyksos.

The Second Intermediate Period[edit | edit source]

The Hyksos ruled Lower Egypt from about 1650-1550 BC until the Thebean king named Ahmose I expelled them out of the country and started the New Kingdom.

The New Kingdom[edit | edit source]

During the New Kingdom Egypt was at its height of power. This period lasted from 1550-1070 BC. During this period Egypt became an empire when Thutmose III conquered Palestine, Syria, and Nubia this empire lasted to Amenhoptep VI who ended Egypt's worship of many gods in favour of one god Aton. Later his son Tutankhamen restored the old religion, Tutankhamen died at 18 leaving no heirs to the throne. Seti I restored some of Egypt's empire in Palestine and Syria and his son Ramses II fought the Hitties at Kadesh, then made the first peace treaty with them. He ruled for 67 years. The last great Pharaoh was Ramses III, who was not a relative of Ramses II. He protected Egypt from invasion. About 1070 BC the New Kingdom ended.

The Postdynastic Period[edit | edit source]

Ancient Indian Civilization[edit | edit source]

The earliest known farming cultures in south Asia emerged in the hills of Balochistan, Pakistan, which included Mehrgarh in the 7th millennium BC. These semi-nomadic peoples domesticated wheat, barley, sheep, goat and cattle. Pottery was in use by the 6th millennium BC. Their settlement consisted of mud buildings that housed four internal subdivisions. Burials included elaborate goods such as baskets, stone and bone tools, beads, bangles, pendants and occasionally animal sacrifices. Figurines and ornaments of sea shell, limestone, turquoise, lapis lazuli, sandstone and polished copper have been found. By the 4th millennium BC we find much evidence of manufacturing. Technologies included stone and copper drills, updraft kilns, large pit kilns and copper melting crucibles. Button seals included geometric designs.

Indus Valley civilization[edit | edit source]

By 4000 BC a pre-Harappan culture emerged, with trade networks including lapis lazuli and other raw materials. Villagers domesticated numerous other crops, including peas, sesame seed, dates, and cotton, plus a wide range of domestic animals, including the water buffalo which still remains essential to intensive agricultural production throughout Asia today. There is also evidence of sea-going craft. Archaeologists have discovered a massive, dredged canal and docking facility at the coastal city of Lothal, India, perhaps the world's oldest sea-faring harbour. Judging from the dispersal of artifacts the trade networks integrated portions of Afghanistan, the Persian coast, northern and central India, Mesopotamia (see Meluhha) and Ancient Egypt (see Silk Road).

Archaeologists studying the remains of two men from Mehrgarh, Pakistan, discovered that these peoples in the Indus Valley Civilization had knowledge of medicine and dentistry as early as circa 3300 BC. The Indus Valley Civilization gains credit for the earliest known use of decimal fractions in a uniform system of ancient weights and measures, as well as negative numbers (see Timeline of mathematics). Ancient Indus Valley artifacts include beautiful, glazed stone faïence beads.

The Indus Valley Civilization boasts the earliest known accounts of urban planning. As seen in Harappa, Mohenjo-daro and (recently discovered) Rakhigarhi, their urban planning included the world's first urban sanitation systems. Evidence suggests efficient municipal governments. Streets were laid out in perfect grid patterns comparable to modern New York. Houses were protected from noise, odors and thieves. The sewage and drainage systems developed and used in cities throughout the Indus Valley were far more advanced than that of contemporary urban sites in Mesopotamia.

Vedic Civilization[edit | edit source]

The Vedic civilization is the Indo-Aryan culture associated with the Vedas, which are the oldest extant Indo-European texts, composed in Vedic Sanskrit. The exact connection of the genesis of this civilization with the Indus Valley civilization on one hand, and a possible Indo-Aryan migration on the other hand, is the subject of disputes. Early Vedic society was largely pastoral. Later on, the society became agricultural, and was organized around four Varnas, or classes. Several small kingdoms and tribes merged to form a few large ones which were often at war with each other.

In addition to the principle texts of Hinduism, (the Vedas), the great Indian epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the latter of which constitutes the longest poem in the world, are said to have been first written during this period, perhaps from a longer spoken tradition of unwritten recitation. The Bhagavad Gita, another primary text of Hinduism, is contained within the Mahabharata.

Early Indo-Aryan presence probably corresponds to the presence of ochre coloured pottery, archaeologically. The kingdom of the Kurus marks flowering of the Vedic civilization, corresponding to the Black and Red Ware and the beginning of the Iron Age in Northern India begins, around 1100 BC, likely also contemporary with the composition of the Atharvaveda. Painted Grey Ware spread over all of Northern India marks the late Vedic period, corresponding to a wave of urbanization occurred across the Indian sub-continent, spreading from Afghanistan to Bengal, in the 7th century BC. A number of kingdoms and republics emerged across the Indo-Gangetic plain and southern India during this period. 16 Mahajanapadas (great kingdoms) are referred to in ancient literature of the period.

The Mahajanapadas[edit | edit source]

By 600 BC, sixteen hereditary monarchies known as the Mahajanapadas stretched across the Indo-Gangetic plains from modern-day Afghanistan to Bangladesh. The largest of these nations were Magadha, Kosala, Kuru and Gandhara. The right of a king to his throne, no matter how it was gained, was usually legitimized through religious right and genealogies concocted by priests who ascribed to the king divine origins.

Hindu rituals at that time were complicated and conducted by the priestly class. It is thought that the Upanishads, the secondary texts of ancient Hinduism, dealing mainly with philosophy, were first composed early in this period. The court language at that time was Sanskrit, while the dialects of the general population of northern India were referred to as Prakrits. In 537 BC, Gautama Buddha gained enlightenment and thus founded Buddhism, which was initially intended as a supplement to the existing Hindu Vedic dharma. Around the same time period, in mid-6th century BC, Mahavira founded Jainism. Both religions had a simple doctrine and were preached in Prakrit which helped it gain acceptance by the masses. While the geographic impact of Jainism was limited, Buddhist nuns and monks spread their teachings of Buddha to Tibet, Sri Lanka and South East Asia.

In around 500 BC, the Indus Valley region was invaded by the Persian ruler Darius I making the far north-west of India a satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire. Though the Persians made Taxila the capital, their influence was marginal and governed the region for around 150 years. The Persians were defeated by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. In 326 BC, Alexander the Great crossed the Hindu Kush mountains and invaded what is now Pakistan. However, costly campaigns against the forces of Porus (also known as Puru), and the tired troops forced him to retreat to his empire after reaching the Beas River in Punjab. He appointed Greek governors to rule the newly acquired province to keep open trade routes between India and Greece.

Maurya Dynasty[edit | edit source]

In 321 BC, exiled general Chandragupta Maurya overthrew reigning king Dhana Nanda to establish the Mauryan Empire. Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Bindusara, who expanded the kingdom over most of present day India, barring the extreme south and east. During this time, most of the subcontinent was united under a single government for the first time.

The kingdom was inherited by his son Ashoka the Great who initially sought to expand his kingdom. In the aftermath of the carnage caused in the invasion of Kalinga, he renounced bloodshed and pursued a policy of non-violence or ahimsa after converting to Buddhism. The Edicts of Ashoka are the oldest preserved historical documents of India, and from Ashoka's time, approximate dating of dynasties becomes possible. The Mauryan dynasty under Ashoka was responsible for the proliferation of Buddhist ideals across the whole of East Asia and South East Asia, fundamentally altering the history and development of Asia. Ashoka the Great has been described as one of the greatest rulers the world has seen.

Shunga Dynasty[edit | edit source]

The Sunga dynasty was established in 185 BC, about 50 years after Ashoka's death, when the king Brihadratha, the last of the Mauryan rulers, was brutally murdered by the then commander-in-chief of the Mauryan armed forces, Pusyamitra Sunga, while he was taking the Guard of Honour of his forces. Pusyamitra Sunga then ascended the throne.

Ancient Chinese Civilization[edit | edit source]

The earliest written record of China's takes the form of inscriptions of divination records on the bones or shells of animals—so-called "oracle bones".

The earliest comprehensive history of China, the "Historical Records" written by Sima Qian, a renowned Chinese historiographer of the 2nd century BC, begins perhaps 3600 BC with an account of the Five Emperors (五帝). These rulers were legendary sage-kings and moral exemplars, and one of them, the Yellow Emperor, is sometimes said to be the ancestor of all Chinese people. Following this period Sima Qian relates that a system of inherited rulership was established during the Xia dynasty, and that this model was perpetuated in the successor Shang and Zhou dynasties. It is during this period of the Three Dynasties (Chinese: 三代) that the historical China begins to appear.

Xia Dynasty[edit | edit source]

Sima Qian's account dates the founding of the Xia Dynasty (夏) to some 4,000 years ago, but this date has not yet been corroborated. Some archaeologists connect the Xia to excavations at Erlitou in central Henan province, where a bronze smelter from around 2000 BC was unearthed. Early markings from this period, found on pottery and shells, have been alleged to be ancestors of modern Chinese characters, but such claims are unsupported. With no clear written records to match the Shang oracle bones or the Zhou bronze vessel writings, the Xia remains poorly understood.

Shang Dynasty[edit | edit source]

Bronzework from the Shang Dynasty.

Archaeological findings provide evidence for the existence of the Shang dynasty (商), ca. 1600 to 1046 BC, and the archaeological evidence is divided into two sets. The first, from the earlier Shang period (ca. 1600 to 1300) comes from sources at Erligang, Zhengzhou and Shangcheng. The second set, from the later Shang or Yin period, consists of a large body of oracle bone writings. Anyang in modern day Henan has been confirmed as the last of the six capitals of the Shang (ca. 1300 to 1046 BC).

Chinese historians living in later periods were accustomed to the notion of one dynasty succeeding another, but the actual political situation in early China is known to have been much more complicated. Hence, as some scholars of China suggest, the Xia and the Shang can possibly refer to political entities that existed at the same time, just as the early Zhou (successor state of the Shang), is known to have existed at the same time as the Shang. What was the religion?

Zhou Dynasty[edit | edit source]

By the end of the 2nd millennium BC, the Zhou Dynasty (周) began to emerge in the Huanghe valley, overrunning the Shang. The Zhou appeared to have begun their rule under a semi-feudal system. Nevertheless, power became decentralized during the Spring and Autumn Period when regional feudal lords began to assert their power, absorb smaller powers, and vie for hegemony. The Hundred Schools of Thought of Chinese philosophy blossomed during this period and such influential intellectual movements as Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism and Mohism were founded. After further political consolidation, seven prominent states remained by the end of 5th century BC, and the years in which these few states battled each other is known as the Warring States period. Though there remained a nominal Zhou king until 256 BC, he was largely a figurehead and held little real power.

Meanwhile, neighboring territories of these warring states were gradually annexed, including areas of modern Sichuan and Liaoning, and governed under the new local administrative system of commandery and prefecture (郡县), which had been in use since the Spring and Autumn Period and was very loosely a primitive prototype of the modern system of Sheng and Xian (province and county). The final expansion in this period began during the reign of Ying Zheng, the king of Qin. His unification of the other six powers, and further annexations in the modern regions of Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong and Guangxi in 214 BC enabled him to proclaim himself the First Emperor (始皇帝,Shi Huangdi), forming the first Chinese empire under the Qin Dynasty (秦), that laid the foundation for the consolidation of the Chinese territories that we know today.

The Hittites[edit | edit source]

Remains of the Great Temple in Hattusa, capital city of the Hittite Empire.

The Hittites were the prescendants of the Caucasian Kartvelian group of nations and were the descendants of Sumerians. Their innovations in the design of chariots, moving the wheel to the centre from the back, gave them a military advantage over other civilizations. Another point of note is that the first international peace treaty was signed by the Hittites and the Egyptians after the Battle of Kadesh. The original copy is kept in the headquarters of the United Nations. After 600 years as a major empire in the Ancient Middle East the Hittites, crippled by the attacks of the Sea Peoples abandoned their capital, Hattusa, and seemed to vanish from history.

The Assyrians[edit | edit source]

The Assyrians were a civilization located near modern Iraq, along the Tigris River. The Assyrians eventually grew to occupy modern-day Iraq, northern Egypt, the eastern parts of Asia Minor and modern-day Jordan.

Assyria started around 2000 BC with Semitic barbarians invading the area and establishing the roots for a civilization. By 1800 BC the Assyrians had firm control over most of northern Mesopotamia, but later lost it to the Babylonians.

By 1076 BC, the Assyrians reached the Mediterranean coast. The Empire reached its peak at around 1000 to 700 BC, with the conquering of northern Egypt and Babylon. However, the Assyrians were very harsh with the lands they conquered, and thus it's citizens were very unhappy with the ruling class. By 600 BC, their capital, Nineveh, fell to the revolting vassal states, including Babylon. Soon after, the Assyrians existed only in the history books.

Though the Assyrians did not advance far in the fields of science and technology, philosophy or the arts, they were mentioned in Biblical records for being great warriors, and their tactics of war would influence later powers, such as the Persians.

The Persians[edit | edit source]

The Persian Empire started in the north west corner of what is now Iran. It grew through military conquest to cover a huge region that roughly encompasses today's Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Bulgaria, many parts of Greece, Egypt, Syria, much of what is now Pakistan, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Caucasia, Central Asia, Libya, and northern parts of Arabia. The empire eventually became the largest empire of the ancient world. Persepolis was the ceremonial capitol of Persia. Susa and Pasargadas also acted as capital cities at different times in Persian history. They were all in what is now Iran.

What did they eat?[edit | edit source]

The food prepared for Persian kings was luxurious. Persians ate stews made from meat and fruit with herbs. They ate rice and bread made with wheat. Yoghurt was also a staple in Persian food. Tablets from the time of these ancient peoples indicate that the inhabitants of Mesopotamia were using basil, cilantro, cumin and caraway in their food in 4,000 BC. Apricots, artichokes, eggplants, lemons, lime, oranges, pistachios, spinach, saffron or tarragon all came to Europe through Persia. Other condiments and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, coriander, dill, nutmeg, pomegranates, saffron, sumac, turmeric, as well as orange-flower water and rose water were used in Persian food. Lamb and goat were the primary meats eaten by Persians.

What did their buildings look like?[edit | edit source]

Ruins in Persepolis.

Persians made very interesting buildings. The Ruins at Persepolis are an example of ancient Persian buildings. Persians were among the first to use mathematics, geometry, and astronomy in their building. Their buildings were grand and were created by skillful workers. Some Persian buildings had huge barrel-vaulted chambers. The Persians created huge domes of rock and clay and supported their roofs with tall columns. They also decorated the walls of their palaces with lions, bulls and flowers. The Kharaghan twin towers and the Shah Mosque are two other old buildings built in a Persian style.

What did they wear?[edit | edit source]

The Persian king wore a robe of honour that was a large piece of fabric that was draped around him. For the king and other aristocracy, their clothes were often decorated with golden clothing ornaments. Some of these are in the form of roundels, while others are gold plaques with loops or rings on the back so they can be sewn onto the cloth. Rich people also liked to wear gold jewelry such as bracelets with animal head carvings. Common people wore coats and pants made out of leather. Men's coats reached from their shoulders down to their knees and were fastened with a girdle. Their sleeves were somewhat tight and went down to their wrists. Originally woman's clothing was quite similar to men's clothing but as time went their style changed. Initially their clothes were short and tight but when the style changed their clothes were made longer, more voluminous and were made out of softer materials. Persian shoes were usually just pieces of leather that were wrapped around their feet and were tied up on the top. These would have look similar to moccasins.

What did their writing look like?[edit | edit source]

Old Persian was written from left to right in Old Persian cuneiform script. Old Persian cuneiform script was supposedly invented by King Darius I, one of ancient Persia's famous kings. There were 36 letters in their alphabet, although some of them essentially represented different syllables. For example they had one symbol for "ka" and another symbol for "ku". They used these symbols even though they also had symbols that represented "a" and "u".

What did they believe?[edit | edit source]

The Persian civilization spawned three major religions: Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, and Manichaeanism. The Persian thinker Zoroaster (who propagated Zoroastrianism) was the main religious movement leader. Living around 3500 years ago, he helped to unite the Persian empire. He rejected the old Persian gods and introduced that a single wise god, Ahura Mazda, ruled the world. However, Ahura Mazda was often in battle with the prince of evil and lies, Ahriman. On Earth, each person had to choose which side to support. Zoroaster's teaching were written in a book, the Zend-Avesta. It said that Ahura Mazda would conquer over the forces of evil, Ahriman, at the end. On that day, all the people would be judges for their actions. Those who did good would enter paradise. Those who did evil would be condemned to eternal suffering.

Are some of them famous even today?[edit | edit source]

Of course, but perhaps the most famous Persian of all time is Cyrus the Great who founded the Persian Empire. In fact, in 1992 he was ranked #87 on Michael H. Hart's list of the most influential figures in history. Other famous Persian kings were Cambises and Darius the Great. Darius III is famous only because he suffered under the hands of Alexander the Great of Greece. During Darius' reign, the whole Persian Empire was destroyed by Alexander, who first attacked the Persians in what is now modern Turkey. He then moved on into the heart of the Empire where he captured the capital Susa. Darius ran away from battle against Alexander twice, but was murdered by his governor Bessus who wanted the throne for himself. Alexander was angry this happened and respected his dead opponent. He held a great funeral for the dead king. Later, Bessus was captured and executed.

What is left of them today?[edit | edit source]

Persians are one of the only ancient civilizations that has made significant contributions to humanity from prehistoric times by their Persian empire all the way through to the modern day in their country Iran. Most Persians are now Muslims, although there are Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians still living and practicing their religion in Iran. There are also some Persians, called Parsis, living in mainly the north and west of India.