Cradle of civilization
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A cradle of civilization is any location where
civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society that is characterized by urban development, social stratification, a form of government, and symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood ...

civilization
is understood to have independently emerged. According to current thinking, there was no single "cradle" of civilization; instead, several cradles of civilization developed independently.
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
,
Ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric ...
,
Ancient India According to consensus in modern genetics, anatomically modern humans first arrived on the Indian subcontinent from Africa between 73,000 and 55,000 years ago. Quote: "Y-Chromosome and Mt-DNA data support the colonization of South Asia by mode ...

Ancient India
, and Ancient China are believed to be the earliest in the
Old World The Old World consists of Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any ...
. The extent to which there was significant influence between the early civilizations of the
Near East The Near East ( ar, الشرق الأدنى, al-Sharq al-'Adnā, he, המזרח הקרוב, arc, ܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, fa, خاور نزدیک, Xāvar-e nazdik, tr, Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental r ...
and the Indus Valley with the Chinese civilization of
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the ...
(
Far East The Far East is a term to refer to the geographical regions that includes East East is one of the four cardinal direction The four cardinal directions, or cardinal points, are the directions north North is one of the four compass point ...
) is disputed. Scholars accept that the
Olmec civilization The Olmecs () were the earliest known major Mesoamerican civilization. Following a progressive development in Soconusco, Veracruz, Soconusco, they occupied the tropical lowlands of the modern-day Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco. It has be ...
of
Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical and important region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics ( physical geography), human impact characteristics ( human geography), and the interaction of humanity and th ...
, which existed in modern-day
Mexico Mexico ( es, México ; Nahuan languages: ), officially the United Mexican States (; EUM ), is a List of sovereign states, country in the southern portion of North America. It is borders of Mexico, bordered to the north by the United States; ...

Mexico
, and the civilization in Caral-Supe, a region in modern-day
Peru , , image_flag = Flag_of_Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo_nacional_del_Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = Seal (device), National seal , nati ...

Peru
, rival in age the civilizations of the Old World and emerged independently of the Old World and of each other. Scholars have defined civilization by using various criteria such as the use of writing, cities, a class-based society, agriculture, animal husbandry, public buildings, metallurgy, and monumental architecture.''Understanding Early Civilizations: A Comparative Study'', Trigger, Bruce G., Cambridge University Press, 2007 The term ''cradle of civilization'' has frequently been applied to a variety of regions and cultures, in particular to the
Ancient Near East The ancient Near East was the home of early civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society that is characterized by urban development, social stratification, a form of government, and symbol A symbol is a mark ...
during the
Chalcolithic The Chalcolithic (),The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) , p. 301: "Chalcolithic /,kælkəl'lɪθɪk/ adjective ''Archaeology'' of, relating to, or denoting a period in the 4th and 3rd millennium BC, chiefly in the Near East and SE Europe, ...
(see
Ubaid period The Ubaid period (c. 6500–3800 BC) is a prehistory, prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-'Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially by Henry Hall (Egyptologist), Henry H ...
), which contained the
Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
, and to
Ancient India According to consensus in modern genetics, anatomically modern humans first arrived on the Indian subcontinent from Africa between 73,000 and 55,000 years ago. Quote: "Y-Chromosome and Mt-DNA data support the colonization of South Asia by mode ...

Ancient India
, and
Ancient China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was mentioned as the twenty-first Shang king by the same. Ancient his ...
. The term has also been applied to ancient
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
, the
Levant The Levant () is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia Western Asia, also West Asia, is the westernmost subregion of Asia. It is entirely a part of the G ...

Levant
, and the Iranian plateau, and is used to refer to cultural predecessors such as
Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era was ...
, which is widely considered the predecessor to
Western civilization Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization, Occidental culture, the Western world, Western society, and European civilization, is the heritage of social norms, ethical values, tradition A tradition is a belief A bel ...
.


History of the idea

The concept "cradle of civilization" is the subject of much debate. The figurative use of ''cradle'' to mean "the place or region in which anything is nurtured or sheltered in its earlier stage" is traced by the
Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a comprehensive res ...
to Spenser (1590).
Charles Rollin Image:Rollin Lecomte Louvre ENT-1987-07.jpg, 200px, Statue of Charles Rollin on display at the Louvre. Charles Rollin (January 30, 1661 in Paris - December 14, 1741 in Paris) was a France, French historian and educator, whose popularity in his time ...

Charles Rollin
's ''Ancient History'' (1734) has "Egypt that served at first as the cradle of the holy nation". The phrase "cradle of civilization" plays a certain role in
national mysticism National mysticism (German ''Nationalmystik'') or mystical nationalism is a form of nationalism which raises the nation to the status of numen or divinity. Its best known instance is Ariosophy, Germanic mysticism, which gave rise to Nazi occultism, ...
. It has been used in Eastern as well as Western cultures, for instance, in
Indian nationalism Indian nationalism developed as a concept during the Indian independence movement#REDIRECT Indian independence movement {{Rcat shell, {{R from move {{R from other capitalisation {{R unprintworthy ... which campaigned for independence ...
(''
In Search of the Cradle of Civilization Subhash Kak (born 26 March 1947, Srinagar Srinagar (English : , ), is the largest city and the summer capital of the Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. It lies in the Kashmir Valley on the banks of the Jhelum River , nam ...
'' 1995) and
Taiwanese nationalism Taiwanese nationalism () is a nationalist Nationalism is an idea and movement that promotes the interests of a particular nation (as in a in-group and out-group, group of people),Anthony D. Smith, Smith, Anthony. ''Nationalism: Theory, Ide ...
(''Taiwan;— The Cradle of Civilization'' 2002). The terms also appear in esoteric
pseudohistory Pseudohistory is a form of pseudoscholarship that attempts to distort or misrepresent the historical record, often using methods resembling those used in legitimate historical research. The related term cryptohistory is applied to a pseudohistory ...
, such as the Urantia Book, claiming the title for "the second Eden", or the
pseudoarchaeology Pseudoarchaeology—also known as alternative archaeology, fringe archaeology, fantastic archaeology, cult archaeology, and spooky archaeology—refers to interpretations of the past from outside the archaeological science community, which reje ...
related to
Megalithic A megalith is a large pre-historic Rock (geology), stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. There are over 35,000 in Europe alone, located widely from Sweden to the Mediterranean ...
Britain (''
Civilization One Christopher Knight is an author who has written several books dealing with pseudoscientific conspiracy theories such as 366-degree geometry and the origins of Freemasonry Freemasonry or Masonry consists of fraternal organisations that t ...
'' 2004, ''Ancient Britain: The Cradle of Civilization'' 1921).


Rise of civilization

The earliest signs of a process leading to
sedentary Image:Family watching television 1958.jpg, Exercise trends, Increases in sedentary behaviors such as watching television are characteristic of a sedentary lifestyle A sedentary lifestyle is a type of lifestyle (sociology), lifestyle involving l ...
culture can be seen in the
Levant The Levant () is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia Western Asia, also West Asia, is the westernmost subregion of Asia. It is entirely a part of the G ...

Levant
to as early as 12,000 BC, when the
Natufian culture The Natufian culture () is a Late Epipaleolithic archaeological culture of the Levant The Levant () is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia Western ...
became sedentary; it evolved into an agricultural society by 10,000 BC. The importance of water to safeguard an abundant and stable food supply, due to favourable conditions for hunting, fishing and gathering resources including cereals, provided an initial '' wide spectrum economy'' that triggered the creation of permanent villages. The earliest proto-urban settlements with several thousand inhabitants emerged in the
Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 years ago when the first developments of ...
. The first cities to house several tens of thousands were
Memphis Memphis is the name of: *Memphis, Egypt , alternate_name = , image = , alt = , caption = Ruins of the pillared hall of Ramesses IIat Mit Rahina , map_type = Egypt , map_alt = , map_size = , reli ...
and
Uruk Uruk, also known as Warka, was an ancient city of Sumer (and later of Babylonia) situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates River on the dried-up ancient channel of the Euphrates east of modern Samawah, Muthanna Governorate, Al-Muthannā, ...
, by the
31st century While the future cannot be predicted with certainty, present understanding in various scientific fields allows for the prediction of some far-future events, if only in the broadest outline. These fields include astrophysics, which has reveal ...
BC (see
Historical urban community sizes This article lists historical urban community sizes based on the estimated populations of selected human settlements from 7000 BC – AD 1875, organized by archaeological periods. Many of the figures are uncertain, especially in ancient times. ...
).
Historic History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the past. Events occurring before the invention of writing systems are considered prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary ...

Historic
times are marked apart from
prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology is the study ...

prehistoric
times when "records of the past begin to be kept for the benefit of future generations"—in written or oral form. If the rise of civilization is taken to coincide with the development of writing out of
proto-writing Proto-writing consists of visible marks Communication, communicating limited information. Such systems emerged from earlier traditions of symbol systems in the early Neolithic, as early as the 7th millennium BC in Ancient China, China. They used i ...
, the Near Eastern
Chalcolithic The Chalcolithic (),The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) , p. 301: "Chalcolithic /,kælkəl'lɪθɪk/ adjective ''Archaeology'' of, relating to, or denoting a period in the 4th and 3rd millennium BC, chiefly in the Near East and SE Europe, ...
, the transitional period between the
Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 years ago when the first developments of ...
and the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the Three-age syst ...
during the 4th millennium BC, and the development of proto-writing in
Harappa Harappa (; Urdu Urdu (; ur, , ALA-LC: ) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The regi ...

Harappa
in the
Indus Valley#REDIRECT Indus River#REDIRECT Indus River {{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R from miscapitalisation {{R unprintworthy ...
{{Redirect category shell, {{R from move {{R from miscapitalisation {{R unprintworthy ...

Indus Valley
of South Asia around 3300 BC are the earliest incidences, followed by Chinese
proto-writing Proto-writing consists of visible marks Communication, communicating limited information. Such systems emerged from earlier traditions of symbol systems in the early Neolithic, as early as the 7th millennium BC in Ancient China, China. They used i ...
evolving into the
oracle bone script Oracle bone script () was an ancestor of modern Chinese characters engraved on oracle bonesanimal bones or turtle plastrons used in pyromancy, pyromantic divinationin the late 2nd millennium BC, and is the earliest known form of Chinese writin ...
, and again by the emergence of
Mesoamerican writing systems Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It can also be described as the no ...
from about 900 BC. In the absence of written documents, most aspects of the rise of early civilizations are contained in archaeological assessments that document the development of formal institutions and the material culture. A "civilized" way of life is ultimately linked to conditions coming almost exclusively from intensive agriculture.
Gordon Childe Vere Gordon Childe (14 April 189219 October 1957) was an Australian archaeologist Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a branch of ...

Gordon Childe
defined the development of civilization as the result of two successive revolutions: the
Neolithic Revolution The Neolithic Revolution, or the (First) Agricultural Revolution, was the wide-scale transition of many human culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (Americ ...
, triggering the development of settled communities, and the
Urban Revolution In anthropology Anthropology is the Science, scientific study of humanity, concerned with human behavior, human biology, cultures, and society, societies, in both the present and past, including Homo, past human species. Social anthropology stu ...
, which enhanced tendencies towards dense settlements, specialized occupational groups, social classes, exploitation of surpluses, monumental public buildings and writing. Few of those conditions, however, are unchallenged by the records: dense cities were not attested in Egypt's Old Kingdom and cities had a dispersed population in the
Maya Maya may refer to: Civilizations * Maya peoples The Maya peoples () are an ethnolinguistic group of indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are cu ...
area; the
Incas The Inca Empire ( qu, Tawantinsuyu,  "four parts together"), Quechuan and Aymaran spelling shift, also known as the Incan Empire and the Inka Empire, was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The administrative, political and militar ...

Incas
lacked writing although they could keep records with
Quipu Quipu (also spelled khipu) are recording devices fashioned from strings historically used by a number of cultures in the region of Andean South America South America is a continent entirely in the Western Hemisphere and mostly in the ...

Quipu
s which might also have had literary uses; and often monumental architecture preceded any indication of village settlement. For instance, in present-day Louisiana, researchers have determined that cultures that were primarily nomadic organized over generations to build earthwork mounds at seasonal settlements as early as 3400 BC. Rather than a succession of events and preconditions, the rise of civilization could equally be hypothesized as an accelerated process that started with incipient agriculture and culminated in the Oriental Bronze Age.''Britannica'' 15th edition, 26:62–63.


Single or multiple cradles

A traditional
theory A theory is a reason, rational type of abstraction, abstract thinking about a phenomenon, or the results of such thinking. The process of contemplative and rational thinking is often associated with such processes as observational study or research ...

theory
of the spread of civilization is that it began in the
Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
and spread out from there by influence. Scholars more generally now believe that civilizations arose independently at several locations in both hemispheres. They have observed that sociocultural developments occurred along different timeframes. "Sedentary" and "
nomadic A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo ...

nomadic
" communities continued to interact considerably; they were not strictly divided among widely different cultural groups. The concept of a cradle of civilization has a focus where the inhabitants came to build
cities A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can range from a small number of dwellings grouped to ...
, to create writing systems, to experiment in techniques for making
pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard, durable form. Major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcel ...

pottery
and using metals, to domesticate animals, and to develop complex
social structure In the social sciences, social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same ...
s involving class systems. Current scholarship generally identifies six sites where civilization emerged independently: * ** Tigris–Euphrates Valley **
Nile Valley The Nile ( ar, النيل, an-Nīl, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin: Áman Dawū) is a major north-flowing river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In som ...
*
Indo-Gangetic Plain#REDIRECT Indo-Gangetic Plain Image:India-Pakistan Borderlands at Night.JPG, 250px, Clusters of yellow lights on the Indo-Gangetic Plain reveal numerous cities large and small in this astronaut photograph of northern India and northern Pakistan, ...

Indo-Gangetic Plain
*
North China Plain 200px, The North China Plain is shown in dark. The Yellow River is shown as "Río Amarillo". The North China Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; ...
* Andean Coast * Mesoamerican Gulf Coast A question that intrigues scholars is why pristine civilizations rose when and where they did. The economies of all of the pristine civilizations depended upon agriculture, with the possible exception of the Andean coast civilization which may have initially relied as much or more on marine resources.
Jared Diamond Jared Mason Diamond (born September 10, 1937) is an American geographer, historian, anthropologist, ornithologist, and author best known for his popular science Popular science (also called pop-science or popsci) is an interpretation of sci ...
postulates that the reason the Fertile Crescent was the earliest civilization was that large-seeded, easily-domesticable plants (wheat and barley, among others) and large domesticable animals (cattle, pigs, sheep, horses) were native to the region. By contrast, it took thousands of years of selective breeding in Mesoamerica for
maize Maize ( ; ''Zea mays'' subsp. ''mays'', from es, maíz after tnq, mahiz), also known as corn ( North American and Australian English), is a cereal grain first domesticated by indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as F ...

maize
to become productive enough to be a staple crop. Mesoamerica also lacked large domesticable animals. Llamas were the only large, domesticable animal in the Andes of South America. Llamas are large enough to be pack animals but not large enough to be ridden or used as draft animals. Australia lacked both easily domesticable plants and large animals.


Cradles of civilization


Fertile Crescent


Mesopotamia

Around 10,200 BC the first fully developed
Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 years ago when the first developments of ...
cultures belonging to the phases
Pre-Pottery Neolithic A Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) denotes the first stage of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, in early Levantine and Anatolian Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to ...
(PPNA) and
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) is part of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, a Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of ...
(7600 to 6000 BC) appeared in the and from there spread eastward and westward.Bellwood, Peter. ''First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies''. 2004. Wiley-Blackwell One of the most notable PPNA settlements is
Jericho Jericho ( ; ar, أريحا ' ; he, יְרִיחוֹ ') is a State of Palestine, Palestinian city in the West Bank. It is located in the Jordan Valley, with the Jordan River to the east and Jerusalem to the west. It is the administrative seat ...

Jericho
in the
Levant The Levant () is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia Western Asia, also West Asia, is the westernmost subregion of Asia. It is entirely a part of the G ...

Levant
region, thought to be the world's first town (settled around 9600 BC and fortified around 6800 BC). In
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
, the convergence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers produced rich fertile soil and a supply of water for irrigation. The civilizations that emerged around these rivers are among the earliest known non-nomadic
agrarian societies An agrarian society, or agricultural society, is any community whose economy An economy (from Greek language, Greek οίκος – "household" and νέμoμαι – "manage") is an area of the Production (economics), production, Distribution ( ...
. It is because of this that the Fertile Crescent region, and Mesopotamia in particular, are often referred to as the cradle of civilization. The period known as the
Ubaid period The Ubaid period (c. 6500–3800 BC) is a prehistory, prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-'Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially by Henry Hall (Egyptologist), Henry H ...
(c. 6500 to 3800 BC) is the earliest known period on the alluvial plain, although it is likely earlier periods exist obscured under the
alluvium Alluvium (from the Latin ''alluvius'', from ''alluere'', "to wash against") is loose, unconsolidated (not cemented together into a solid Rock (geology), rock) soil or sediment that has been Erosion, eroded, reshaped by water in some form, and ...

alluvium
. It was during the Ubaid period that the movement toward urbanization began. Agriculture and animal husbandry were widely practiced in sedentary communities, particularly in Northern Mesopotamia, and intensive irrigated hydraulic agriculture began to be practiced in the south. Around 6000 BC, Neolithic settlements appear all over Egypt. Studies based on morphological, , and
archaeological Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a branch of socio-cultural anthropology, but archaeologists also draw from biological, geological, ...
data have attributed these settlements to migrants from the Fertile Crescent in the
Near East The Near East ( ar, الشرق الأدنى, al-Sharq al-'Adnā, he, המזרח הקרוב, arc, ܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, fa, خاور نزدیک, Xāvar-e nazdik, tr, Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental r ...
returning during the Egyptian and North African Neolithic Revolution and bringing
agriculture Agriculture is the science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentism, sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domestication, domesticated species created food ...
to the region.
Tell el-'Oueili Tell el-'Oueili is a Tell (archaeology), tell, or ancient settlement mound, located in Dhi Qar Governorate, southern Iraq. The site was excavated between 1976 and 1989 by French archaeologists under the direction of Jean-Louis Huot. The excavations ...
is the oldest Sumerian site settled during this period, around 5300 BC, and the city of also first dates to the end of this period. In the south, the Ubaid period took place from around 6500 to 3800 BC, when it was replaced by the
Uruk period The Uruk period (ca. 4000 to 3100 BC; also known as Protoliterate period) existed from the protohistoric Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age period in the history of Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ' ...
.Carter, Robert A. and Philip, Graham. 2010. 'Deconstructing the Ubaid' in Carter, Robert A. and Philip, Graham (eds.) ''Beyond the Ubaid: Transformation and Integration in the Late Prehistoric Societies of the Middle East''. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. p. 2.
Sumerian civilization Sumer ()The name is from AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclo ...
coalesced in the subsequent Uruk period (4000 to 3100 BC). Named after the Sumerian city of
Uruk Uruk, also known as Warka, was an ancient city of Sumer (and later of Babylonia) situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates River on the dried-up ancient channel of the Euphrates east of modern Samawah, Muthanna Governorate, Al-Muthannā, ...
, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia and, during its later phase, the gradual emergence of the
cuneiform script Cuneiform is a logo- syllabic script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized ...

cuneiform script
.
Proto-writing Proto-writing consists of visible marks Communication, communicating limited information. Such systems emerged from earlier traditions of symbol systems in the early Neolithic, as early as the 7th millennium BC in Ancient China, China. They used i ...
in the region dates to around 3500 BC, with the earliest texts dating to 3300 BC; early cuneiform writing emerged in 3000 BC. It was also during this period that pottery painting declined as copper started to become popular, along with cylinder seals. Sumerian cities during the Uruk period were probably
theocratic Theocracy is a form of government in which a deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male deity), god or goddess (in a polytheistic relig ...
and were most likely headed by a priest-king (''ensi''), assisted by a council of elders, including both men and women.Jacobsen, Thorkild (Ed) (1939),"The Sumerian King List" (Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago; Assyriological Studies, No. 11., 1939) It is quite possible that the later Sumerian
pantheon Pantheon may refer to: * Pantheon (religion), the set of gods belonging to a particular religion, mythology or tradition * Pantheon (mythical creature), a mythical or imaginary creature used in heraldry, particularly in Britain Computing *Pant ...
was modeled upon this political structure. Uruk trade networks started to expand to other parts of Mesopotamia and as far as
North Caucasus North is one of the four compass points or cardinal directions. It is the opposite of south South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The ...
, and strong signs of governmental organization and social stratification began to emerge leading to the Early Dynastic Period (c. 2900 BC). The
Jemdet Nasr period The Jemdet Nasr Period is an archaeological culture in southern Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن '; grc, Μεσοποταμία; Syriac language, Classical Syriac: ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ Ārām''-Nahrīn'' ...
, which is generally dated from 3100 to 2900 BC and succeeds the Uruk period, is known as one of the formative stages in the development of the cuneiform script. The oldest clay tablets come from Uruk and date to the late fourth millennium BC, slightly earlier than the Jemdet Nasr Period. By the time of the Jemdet Nasr Period, the script had already undergone a number of significant changes. It originally consisted of
pictographs A pictogram, also called a pictogramme, pictograph, or simply picto, and in computer usage an computer icon, icon, is a graphic symbol that conveys its meaning through its pictorial resemblance to a physical object. Pictographs are often used in ...

pictographs
, but by the time of the Jemdet Nasr Period it was already adopting simpler and more abstract designs. It is also during this period that the script acquired its iconic wedge-shaped appearance. After the Early Dynastic period begins, there was a shift in control of the city-states from the temple establishment headed by council of elders led by a priestly "En" (a male figure when it was a temple for a goddess, or a female figure when headed by a male god) towards a more secular Lugal (Lu = man, Gal = great) and includes such legendary patriarchal figures as
Enmerkar Enmerkar was an ancient Sumer Sumer ()The name is from Akkadian '; Sumerian ''kig̃ir'', written and ,approximately "land of the civilized kings" or "native land". means "native, local", iĝir NATIVE (7x: Old Babylonian)from ''The Penn ...
,
Lugalbanda Lugalbanda was a deified Sumerian king of Uruk Uruk (; Sumerian language, Sumerian: Cuneiform: , ''unugki'', Akkadian language, Akkadian: ''Uruk'' (Cities of the Ancient Near East, URUUNUG); ar, وركاء or أوروك, '; Syriac language, ...
and
Gilgamesh , image = Hero lion Dur-Sharrukin Louvre AO19862.jpg , alt = , caption = Possible representation of Gilgamesh as Master of Animals, grasping a lion in his left arm and snake in his right hand, in an Assyrian palace relief ( ...

Gilgamesh
—who are supposed to have reigned shortly before the historic record opens c. 2700 BC, when the now deciphered syllabic writing started to develop from the early pictograms. The center of Sumerian culture remained in southern Mesopotamia, even though rulers soon began expanding into neighboring areas, and neighboring Semitic groups adopted much of Sumerian culture for their own. The earliest
ziggurats A ziggurat (; Akkadian: ', D-stem of ' 'to protrude, to build high', cognate with other semitic languages The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list ...

ziggurats
began near the end of the Early Dynastic Period, although architectural precursors in the form of raised platforms date back to the Ubaid period. The well-known
Sumerian King List#Redirect Sumerian King List {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{Redirect from other capitalisation {{Redirect from move ...
dates to the early second millennium BC. It consists of a succession of royal dynasties from different Sumerian cities, ranging back into the Early Dynastic Period. Each dynasty rises to prominence and dominates the region, only to be replaced by the next. The document was used by later Mesopotamian kings to legitimize their rule. While some of the information in the list can be checked against other texts such as economic documents, much of it is probably purely fictional, and its use as a historical document is limited.
Eannatum Eannatum ( sux, ) was a Sumer Sumer ()The name is from Akkadian '; Sumerian ''kig̃ir'', written and ,approximately "land of the civilized kings" or "native land". means "native, local", iĝir NATIVE (7x: Old Babylonian)from ''The Penns ...
, the
Sumer Sumer ()The name is from AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclo ...

Sumer
ian king of
Lagash Lagash (cuneiform: LAGAŠKI; Sumerian language, Sumerian: ''Lagaš''), or Shirpurla, was an ancient city state located northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and east of Uruk, about east of the modern town of Ash Shatrah, I ...

Lagash
, established one of the first verifiable empires in history in 2500 BC. The neighboring Elam, in modern
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran ( fa, جمهوری اسلامی ایران ), is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north ...

Iran
, was also part of the early
urbanization Urbanization (or urbanisation) refers to the population shift from rural A rural landscape in Lappeenranta, South Karelia, Finland. 15 July 2000.">South_Karelia.html" ;"title="Lappeenranta, South Karelia">Lappeenranta, South Karelia, Finla ...
during the
Chalcolithic The Chalcolithic (),The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) , p. 301: "Chalcolithic /,kælkəl'lɪθɪk/ adjective ''Archaeology'' of, relating to, or denoting a period in the 4th and 3rd millennium BC, chiefly in the Near East and SE Europe, ...
period. Elamite states were among the leading political forces of the
Ancient Near East The ancient Near East was the home of early civilization A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society that is characterized by urban development, social stratification, a form of government, and symbol A symbol is a mark ...
. The emergence of Elamite written records from around 3000 BC also parallels Sumerian history, where slightly earlier records have been found. During the 3rd millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the
Sumer Sumer ()The name is from AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclo ...

Sumer
ians and the Akkadians.
AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages' ...
gradually replaced Sumerian as a spoken language somewhere between the 3rd and the 2nd millennia BC. The Akkadian empire emerged around 2350 BC under
Sargon the Great Sargon of Akkad (; akk, 𒊬𒊒𒄀 ''Šar-ru-gi''), also known as Sargon the Great, was the first ruler of the Akkadian Empire The Akkadian Empire () was the first ancient empire of Mesopotamia after the long-lived civilization of Sumer. ...
. The Akkadian Empire reached its political peak between the 24th and 22nd centuries BC. Under Sargon and his successors, the Akkadian language was briefly imposed on neighboring conquered states such as
Elam Elam (; Linear Elamite: ''hatamti''; Cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronz ...

Elam
and
Gutium The Guti () or Quti, also known by the derived exonym An endonym (from Greek: , 'inner' + , 'name'; also known as autonym) is a common, internal name A name is a term used for identification by an external observer. They can identify a class ...
. After the fall of the Akkadian Empire and the overthrow of the
Gutians The Guti () or Quti, also known by the derived exonyms Gutians or Guteans, were a nomadic people of West Asia, around the Zagros Mountains (Modern Iran) during ancient times. Their homeland was known as Gutium (Sumerian language, Sumerian: ,''Gu-tu ...
, there was a brief reassertion of Sumerian dominance in Mesopotamia under the
Third Dynasty of Ur The Third Dynasty of Ur, also called the Neo-Sumerian Empire, refers to a 22nd to 21st century BC ( middle chronology) Sumerian ruling dynasty based in the city of Ur and a short-lived territorial-political state which some historians consider to h ...
. After the final collapse of Sumerian hegemony in Mesopotamia around 2004 BC, the Semitic Akkadian people of Mesopotamia eventually coalesced into two major Akkadian-speaking nations:
Assyria Assyria () ( akk, 𒀸𒋩, syc, ܐܬܘܪ or ), also at times called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamian kingdom and empire of the Ancient Near East that existed as a state from perhaps as early as the 25th century BC (in the form of the ...
in the north, and, a few centuries later,
Babylonia Babylonia () was an Ancient history, ancient Akkadian language, Akkadian-speaking state (polity), state and cultural area based in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq and Syria). A small Amorites, Amorite-ruled state emerged in 1894 ...
in the south.


Ancient Egypt

The developed
Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 years ago when the first developments of ...
cultures belonging to the phases
Pre-Pottery Neolithic A Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) denotes the first stage of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, in early Levantine and Anatolian Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to ...
(10,200 BC) and
Pre-Pottery Neolithic B Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) is part of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, a Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of ...
(7600 to 6000 BC) appeared in the and from there spread eastwards and westwards. Contemporaneously, a grain-grinding culture using the earliest type of sickle blades had replaced the culture of hunters, fishers, and gathering people using stone tools along the Nile. Geological evidence and computer climate modeling studies also suggest that natural climate changes around 8000 BC began to desiccate the extensive pastoral lands of northern Africa, eventually forming the
Sahara The Sahara (, ; ar, الصحراء الكبرى, ', 'the Greatest Desert') is a desert on the African continent Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million k ...

Sahara
. Continued desiccation forced the early ancestors of the Egyptians to settle around the Nile more permanently and to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. The oldest fully developed neolithic culture in Egypt is Fayum A culture that began around 5500 B.C. By about 5500 BC, small tribes living in the Nile valley had developed into a series of inter-related cultures as far south as Sudan, demonstrating firm control of agriculture and
animal husbandry Animal husbandry is the branch of agriculture Agriculture is the science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentism, sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of ...
, and identifiable by their pottery and personal items, such as combs, bracelets, and beads. The largest of these early cultures in upper Southern Egypt was the Badari, which probably originated in the Western Desert; it was known for its high quality ceramics,
stone tool A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of Rock (geology), stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistory, prehisto ...

stone tool
s, and use of copper. The oldest known domesticated bovine in Africa are from
Fayum Faiyum ( ar, الفيوم ' , borrowed from cop,  ̀Ⲫⲓⲟⲙ or Ⲫⲓⲱⲙ ' from egy, pꜣ ym "the Sea, Lake") is a city in Middle Egypt. Located southwest of Cairo Cairo ( ; ar, القاهرة, al-Qāhirah, , Coptic: ...
dating to around 4400 BC. The Badari cultures was followed by the
Naqada culture The Naqada culture is an archaeological culture of Chalcolithic Predynastic Egypt (c. 4000–3000 BC), named for the town of Naqada, Qena Governorate. A 2013 Oxford University radio carbon dating study of the Predynastic period suggests a beginni ...
, which brought a number of technological improvements. As early as the first Naqada Period, Amratia, Egyptians imported
obsidian Obsidian () is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed when lava extruded from a volcano A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and Volcanic gas, gases to e ...

obsidian
from
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country in the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea and Djibouti to the north, Somaliland to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south ...
, used to shape blades and other objects from . By 3300 BC, just before the first Egyptian dynasty, Egypt was divided into two kingdoms, known as
Upper Egypt Upper Egypt ( ar, صعيد مصر ', shortened to , , locally: ; ) is the southern portion of Egypt and is composed of the lands on both sides of the Nile that extend wikt:downriver, downriver between Nubia and Lower Egypt in the north. In ancien ...
to the south, and
Lower Egypt , the Red Crown of Lower Egypt Image:Lower Egypt Nomes 01.png, 350px, Map of Lower Egypt with its historical nomes Lower Egypt ( ar, مصر السفلى '; ''Tsakhit'') is the northernmost region of Egypt Egypt ( ; ar, مِصر ), ...
to the north.Adkins, L. and Adkins, R. (2001) ''The Little Book of Egyptian Hieroglyphics'', p155. London: Hodder and Stoughton begins during the second phase of the Naqda culture, known as the Gerzeh period, around 3500 BC and coalesces with the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt around 3150 BC. Farming produced the vast majority of food; with increased food supplies, the populace adopted a much more sedentary lifestyle, and the larger settlements grew to cities of about 5,000 residents. It was in this time that the city dwellers started using mud brick to build their cities, and the use of the arch and recessed walls for decorative effect became popular.Redford, Donald B. Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. (Princeton: University Press, 1992) Copper instead of stone was increasingly used to make tools and weaponry.Gardiner, Alan H. ''Egypt of the Pharaohs: An Introduction''. Oxford University Press. 1964 Symbols on Gerzean pottery also resemble nascent Egyptian hieroglyphs. Early evidence also exists of contact with the
Near East The Near East ( ar, الشرق الأدنى, al-Sharq al-'Adnā, he, המזרח הקרוב, arc, ܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, fa, خاور نزدیک, Xāvar-e nazdik, tr, Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental r ...
, particularly
Canaan A 1692 map of Canaan, by Philip Lea Canaan (; Northwest Semitic Northwest Semitic, known as Syro-Palestinian in dialect geography, is a division of the Semitic languages comprising the indigenous languages of the Levant. It would have ...

Canaan
and the
Byblos Byblos ( ar, جبيل ''Jubayl'', locally ''Jbeil''; gr, Βύβλος; phn, 𐤂𐤁𐤋 (GBL) , (probably ''Gubal'') is a city in the Mount Lebanon Governorate of Lebanon Lebanon (), officially known as the Lebanese Republic,''Republic ...
coast, during this time. Concurrent with these cultural advances, a process of unification of the societies and towns of the upper Nile River, or Upper Egypt, occurred. At the same time the societies of the Nile Delta, or Lower Egypt, also underwent a unification process. During his reign in Upper Egypt, King
Narmer Narmer ( egy, nꜥr-mr, meaning "painful," "stinging," "harsh," or "fierce catfish;" ) was an ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile ...

Narmer
defeated his enemies on the Delta and merged both the Kingdom of Upper and Lower Egypt under his single rule. The
Early Dynastic Period of Egypt The Archaic or Early Dynastic Period of Egypt (also known as Thinite Period, from Thinis, the supposed hometown of its rulers) is the era immediately following the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt ''c.'' 3100 BC. It is generally taken t ...

Early Dynastic Period of Egypt
immediately followed the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. It is generally taken to include the
First First or 1st is the ordinal form of the number 1 (number), one (#1). First or 1st may also refer to: *World record, specifically the first instance of a particular achievement Arts and media Music * 1$T, American rapper, singer-songwriter, DJ, ...
and Second Dynasties, lasting from the
Naqada III Naqada III is the last phase of the Naqada culture of ancient Egyptian prehistory, dating from approximately 3200 to 3000 BC. It is the period during which the process of state formation, which began in Naqada II, became highly visible, ...
archaeological period until about the beginning of the
Old Kingdom In ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization ...
, c. 2686 BC.Shaw, Ian (2003). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press With the First Dynasty, the capital moved from
Thinis Thinis (Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
to
Memphis Memphis is the name of: *Memphis, Egypt , alternate_name = , image = , alt = , caption = Ruins of the pillared hall of Ramesses IIat Mit Rahina , map_type = Egypt , map_alt = , map_size = , reli ...
with a unified Egypt ruled by a
god-kingGod king, or God-King, is a term for a deified ruler or a pagan deity that is venerated in the guise of a king. In particular, it is used to refer to: *the Egyptian Pharaoh Pharaoh (, ; cop, ''Pǝrro'') is the common title now used for the ...
. The hallmarks of
ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric ...
ian civilization, such as
art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities involving creative imagination to express technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas. There is no generally agreed definition of what constitutes art, and i ...
,
architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. Architecture (Latin ''archit ...
and many aspects of
religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is voluntary/involuntary. Etymology ...
, took shape during the Early Dynastic period. The strong institution of kingship developed by the pharaohs served to legitimize state control over the land, labour, and resources that were essential to the survival and growth of ancient Egyptian civilization. Major advances in architecture, art, and technology were made during the subsequent
Old Kingdom In ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization ...
, fueled by the increased
agricultural productivity Agricultural productivity is measured as the ratio of agricultural outputs to inputs. While individual products are usually measured by weight, which is known as crop yield, varying products make measuring overall agricultural output difficult ...
and resulting population, made possible by a well-developed central administration. Some of ancient Egypt's crowning achievements, the
Giza pyramids The Giza Pyramid Complex, also called the Giza Necropolis, is the site on the Giza Plateau in Greater Cairo, Egypt that includes the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, along with their associated pyramid co ...

Giza pyramids
and
Great Sphinx Great may refer to: Descriptions or measurements * Great, a relative measurement in physical space, see Size File:Comparison of planets and stars (sheet by sheet) (Oct 2014 update).png, A size comparison illustration comparing the sizes of vario ...

Great Sphinx
, were constructed during the Old Kingdom. Under the direction of the
vizier A vizier (; ar, وزير, wazīr; fa, وزیر, vazīr), or wazir, is a high-ranking political advisor or minister in the near east. The Abbasid The Abbasid Caliphate ( or ar, اَلْخِلَافَةُ ٱلْعَبَّاسِيَّةُ ...
, state officials collected taxes, coordinated irrigation projects to improve
crop yield In agriculture Agriculture is the science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentism, sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domestication, domesticated specie ...
, drafted peasants to work on construction projects, and established a
justice system The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems: civil law, common law, statutory law, religious law Religious law includes ethical and moral codes taught by religious traditions. Different religio ...
to maintain peace and order. Along with the rising importance of a central administration there arose a new class of educated scribes and officials who were granted estates by the pharaoh in payment for their services. Pharaohs also made land grants to their mortuary cults and local temples, to ensure that these institutions had the resources to worship the pharaoh after his death. Scholars believe that five centuries of these practices slowly eroded the economic power of the pharaoh, and that the economy could no longer afford to support a large centralized administration. As the power of the pharaoh diminished, regional governors called
nomarch A nomarch ( grc, νομάρχης, egy, ḥrj tp ꜥꜣ Great Chief) was a provincial governor in ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, ...
s began to challenge the supremacy of the pharaoh. This, coupled with severe droughts between 2200 and 2150 BC, is assumed to have caused the country to enter the 140-year period of famine and strife known as the
First Intermediate Period The First Intermediate Period, described as a 'dark period' in ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place t ...
.


Ancient India

One of the earliest
Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 years ago when the first developments of ...
sites in the Indian subcontinent is
Bhirrana Bhirrana, also Bhirdana and Birhana, (Hindi Hindi ( Devanagari: हिन्दी, IAST/ ISO 15919: ''Hindī''), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi ( Devanagari: मानक हिन्दी, IAST/ ISO 15919: ''Mānak Hindī'' ...
along the ancient
Ghaggar-Hakra The Ghaggar-Hakra River is an intermittent river in India and Pakistan that flows only during the monsoon season. The river is known as Ghaggar in India, before the Ottu barrage, and as the Hakra in Pakistan, downstream of the barrage, ending i ...
riverine system in the present day state of
Haryana Haryana (; ) is a States and union territories of India, state in India located in the northern-part of the country. It was carved out of the former state of East Punjab on 1 November 1966 on a linguistic basis. It is ranked 21st in terms of area ...

Haryana
in
India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous country, the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest ...

India
, dating to around 7600 BC. Other early sites include
Lahuradewa Lahuradewa (Lat. 26°46'12" N; Long. 82°56'59" E) is located in Sant Kabir Nagar District, in Sarayupar (Trans-Sarayu) region of the Upper Gangetic Plain in Uttar Pradesh state of India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India ( ...
in the Middle
Ganges The Ganges ( ) or Ganga ( , ) is a trans-boundary river of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, He ...

Ganges
region and
Jhusi Jhusi or Jhunsi is a town and a gram panchayat The Panchayat raj (''panchayat'' "village council", '' raj'' "rule") is a political system In political science Political science is the scientific study of politics. It is a social science ...
near the confluence of
Ganges The Ganges ( ) or Ganga ( , ) is a trans-boundary river of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, He ...

Ganges
and
Yamuna The Yamuna ( Hindustani: ) is the second-largest tributary A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a larger stream or main stem (or parent) river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean. Tribu ...

Yamuna
rivers, both dating to around 7000 BC. The aceramic Neolithic at
Mehrgarh , coordinates=, native_name_lang=ur, alternate_name=Mehrgahr, Merhgarh, Merhgahr, location= Dhadar, Balochistan Balochistan (; bal, بلوچِستان; also romanised as Baluchistan) is an arid desert upright=1.5, alt=see caption, Sa ...

Mehrgarh
in present day Pakistan lasts from 7000 to 5500 BC, with the ceramic Neolithic at Mehrgarh lasting up to 3300 BC; blending into the Early Bronze Age. Mehrgarh is one of the earliest sites with evidence of farming and herding in the Indian subcontinent. It is likely that the culture centered around Mehrgarh migrated into the Indus Valley in present day Pakistan and became the
Indus Valley Civilisation , c. 2500 BCE. Terracotta Terracotta, terra cotta, or terra-cotta (; Italian language, Italian: "baked earth", from the Latin ''terra cocta''), a type of earthenware, is a clay-based ceramic glaze, unglazed or glazed ceramic, where the ...
. The earliest fortified town in the region is found at Rehman Dheri, dated 4000 BC in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa close to River Zhob Valley in present day Pakistan . Other fortified towns found to date are at Amri (3600–3300 BC),
Kot Diji The ancient site at Kot Diji ( sd, ڪوٽ ڏیجي; ur, کوٹ ڈیجی) was the forerunner of the Indus Civilization oxen for pulling a cart and the presence of the chicken The chicken (''Gallus gallus domesticus''), a subspecies ...

Kot Diji
in
Sindh Sindh (; sd, سنڌ; ur, , ; historically romanized as Sind) is one of the four Administrative units of Pakistan, provinces of Pakistan. Located in the Geography of Pakistan, southeastern region of the country, Sindh is the third-largest ...

Sindh
, and at
Kalibangan Kalibangān is a town located at on the left or southern banks of the Ghaggar (Ghaggar-Hakra River) in Tehsil Pilibangān, between Suratgarh and Hanumangarh in Hanumangarh District, Rajasthan, India 205 km. from Bikaner. It is also identifie ...

Kalibangan
(3000 BC) at the
Hakra The Ghaggar-Hakra River is an intermittent river Intermittent, temporary, or seasonal rivers and streams cease to flow every year or at least twice every five years.(Tzoraki et al., 2007) Such rivers drain large arid and semi-arid areas, cov ...
River. The Indus Valley Civilisation starts around 3300 BC with what is referred to as the Early Harappan Phase (3300 to 2600 BC). The earliest examples of the
Indus script Collection of seals The Indus script (also known as the Harappan script) is a corpus of symbols produced by the Indus Valley Civilization oxen for pulling a cart and the presence of the chicken The chicken (''Gallus gallus domest ...

Indus script
date to this period, as well as the emergence of citadels representing centralised authority and an increasingly urban quality of life. Trade networks linked this culture with related regional cultures and distant sources of raw materials, including and other materials for bead-making. By this time, villagers had domesticated numerous crops, including
pea The pea is most commonly the small spherical seed A seed is an embryonic plant enclosed in a protective outer covering. The formation of the seed is part of the process of reproduction Reproduction (or procreation or breeding) is ...

pea
s,
sesame seed Sesame ( or ; ''Sesamum indicum'') is a flowering plant in the genus ''Sesamum'', also called ''benne''. Numerous wild relatives occur in Africa and a smaller number in India. It is widely naturalization (biology), naturalized in tropical region ...
s, dates, and cotton, as well as animals, including the
water buffalo The water buffalo (''Bubalus bubalis''), also called the domestic water buffalo or Asian water buffalo, is a large bovid The Bovidae comprise the biological family Family ( la, familia, plural ') is one of the eight major hierarchical tax ...
. 2600 BC marks the Mature Harappan Phase during which Early Harappan communities turned into large urban centres including
Harappa Harappa (; Urdu Urdu (; ur, , ALA-LC: ) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The regi ...

Harappa
,
Dholavira Dholavira ( gu, ધોળાવીરા) is an archaeological site An archaeological site is a place (or group of physical sites) in which evidence of past activity is preserved (either prehistoric or recorded history, historic or contempora ...

Dholavira
,
Mohenjo-Daro Mohenjo-daro (; sd, موئن جو دڙو'', ''meaning 'Mound of the Dead Men';
,
Lothal Lothal () was one of the southernmost cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization oxen for pulling a cart and the presence of the chicken The chicken (''Gallus gallus domesticus''), a subspecies of the red junglefowl, is a t ...

Lothal
,
Rupar Rupnagar (; formerly known as Ropar) is a city and a municipal council in Rupnagar district Rupnagar district is one of twenty-two districts in the state of Punjab Punjab ( Gurmukhi: ; Shahmukhi: ; , ; , ; ; also romanised as Pa ...
, and
Rakhigarhi Rakhigarhi, Rakhi Garhi (''Rakhi Shahpur'' + ''Rakhi Khas''), is a village in Hisar District in the state of Haryana in India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of cou ...
, and more than 1,000 towns and villages, often of relatively small size. Mature Harappans evolved new techniques in
metallurgy Metallurgy is a domain of Materials science, materials science and engineering that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic Chemical element, elements, their Inter-metallic alloy, inter-metallic compounds, and their mixtures, which ...
and produced copper,
bronze Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, commonly with about 12–12.5% tin and often with the addition of other metals (such as aluminum, manganese, nickel or zinc) and sometimes non-metals or metalloids such as arsenic, phosphorus or ...
, lead, and
tin Tin is a chemical element Image:Simple Periodic Table Chart-blocks.svg, 400px, Periodic table, The periodic table of the chemical elements In chemistry, an element is a pure substance consisting only of atoms that all have the same numbers ...

tin
and displayed advanced levels of engineering. As seen in Harappa, Mohenjo-daro and the recently partially excavated
Rakhigarhi Rakhigarhi, Rakhi Garhi (''Rakhi Shahpur'' + ''Rakhi Khas''), is a village in Hisar District in the state of Haryana in India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of cou ...
, this urban plan included the world's first known urban
sanitation Sanitation refers to public health Public health has been defined as "the science and art of Preventive healthcare, preventing disease”, prolonging life and improving quality of life through organized efforts and informed choices of society ...

sanitation
systems: see hydraulic engineering of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Within the city, individual homes or groups of homes obtained water from
wells Wells most commonly refers to: * Wells, Somerset, a cathedral city in Somerset, England * Well, an excavation or structure created in the ground * Wells (name) Wells may also refer to: Places ;Canada *Wells, British Columbia ;England * Wells ( ...

wells
. From a room that appears to have been set aside for bathing,
waste water Wastewater is any water Water is an Inorganic compound, inorganic, Transparency and translucency, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and Color of water, nearly colorless chemical substance, which is the main constituent of Earth's hydrosph ...

waste water
was directed to covered drains, which lined the major streets. Houses opened only to inner
courtyard A courtyard or court is a circumscribed area, often surrounded by a building A building, or edifice, is a structure with a roof and walls standing more or less permanently in one place, such as a house or factory. Buildings come in a variety ...
s and smaller lanes. The house-building in some villages in the region still resembles in some respects the house-building of the Harappans. The advanced architecture of the Harappans is shown by their impressive dockyards,
granaries A granary is a storehouse or room in a barn in Lubbock, Texas, U.S., was used as a teaching facility until 1967. , Coggeshall, England, originally part of the Cistercian monastery of Coggeshall. Dendrochronologically dated from 1237–126 ...

granaries
, warehouses, brick platforms, and protective walls. The massive walls of Indus cities most likely protected the Harappans from floods and may have dissuaded military conflicts. The people of the Indus Civilisation achieved great accuracy in measuring length, mass, and time. They were among the first to develop a system of uniform weights and measures. A comparison of available objects indicates large scale variation across the Indus territories. Their smallest division, which is marked on an ivory scale found in
Lothal Lothal () was one of the southernmost cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization oxen for pulling a cart and the presence of the chicken The chicken (''Gallus gallus domesticus''), a subspecies of the red junglefowl, is a t ...

Lothal
in Gujarat, was approximately 1.704 mm, the smallest division ever recorded on a scale of the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the Three-age syst ...
. Harappan engineers followed the decimal division of measurement for all practical purposes, including the measurement of mass as revealed by their
hexahedronA hexahedron (plural: hexahedra) is any polyhedron with six Face (geometry), faces. A cube, for example, is a Regular polyhedron, regular hexahedron with all its faces Square (geometry), square, and three squares around each Vertex (geometry), vertex ...

hexahedron
weights. These
chert Chert () is a hard, fine-grained sedimentary rock Sedimentary rocks are types of Rock (geology), rock that are formed by the accumulation or deposition of mineral or organic matter, organic particles at the Earth's surface, followed by Cementa ...
weights were in a ratio of 5:2:1 with weights of 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 units, with each unit weighing approximately 28 grams, similar to the English or Greek uncia, and smaller objects were weighed in similar ratios with the units of 0.871. However, as in other cultures, actual weights were not uniform throughout the area. The weights and measures later used in
Kautilya Chanakya (IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation of Brahmic family, Indic scripts as employed by Sanskrit and related Indic languages. It is bas ...

Kautilya
's ''
Arthashastra The ''Arthaśāstra'' ( sa, अर्थशास्त्र, ) is an ancient Indian Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging t ...
'' (4th century BC) are the same as those used in
Lothal Lothal () was one of the southernmost cities of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization oxen for pulling a cart and the presence of the chicken The chicken (''Gallus gallus domesticus''), a subspecies of the red junglefowl, is a t ...

Lothal
. Around 1800 BC, signs of a gradual decline began to emerge, and by around 1700 BC most of the cities had been abandoned. Suggested contributory causes for the localisation of the IVC include changes in the course of the river, and
climate change Contemporary climate change includes both the global warming caused by humans, and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known event ...
that is also signalled for the neighbouring areas of the Middle East. many scholars believe that drought led to a decline in trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia contributing to the collapse of the Indus Civilisation. The
Ghaggar-Hakra The Ghaggar-Hakra River is an intermittent river in India and Pakistan that flows only during the monsoon season. The river is known as Ghaggar in India, before the Ottu barrage, and as the Hakra in Pakistan, downstream of the barrage, ending i ...
system was rain-fed, and water-supply depended on the monsoons. The Indus Valley climate grew significantly cooler and drier from about 1800 BC, linked to a general weakening of the
monsoon A monsoon () is traditionally a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences which includes atmospheric chemistry and atmospheric ph ...

monsoon
at that time. The Indian monsoon declined and aridity increased, with the Ghaggar-Hakra retracting its reach towards the foothills of the Himalaya, leading to erratic and less extensive floods that made inundation agriculture less sustainable. Aridification reduced the water supply enough to cause the civilisation's demise, and to scatter its population eastward. As the monsoons kept shifting south, the floods grew too erratic for sustainable agricultural activities. The residents then migrated away into smaller communities. However trade with the old cities did not flourish. The small surplus produced in these small communities did not allow development of trade, and the cities died out. The
Indo-Aryan peoples Indo-Aryan peoples refers to both the pastoralist Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Sign ...
migrated into the Indus River Valley during this period and began the Vedic age of India. The Indus Valley Civilisation did not disappear suddenly and many elements of the civilization continued in later Indian subcontinent and Vedic cultures.


Ancient China

Drawing on
archaeology Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a branch of socio-cultural anthropology, but archaeologists also draw from biological, geological ...
,
geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology), rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which th ...

geology
and
anthropology Anthropology is the scientific study of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture ...
, modern scholars do not see the origins of the Chinese civilization or
history History (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 millio ...
as a linear story but rather the history of the interactions of different and distinct cultures and
ethnic groups An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups such as a common set of traditions, ancestry, language, history, society, culture, nation ...

ethnic groups
that influenced each other's development. The specific cultural regions that developed Chinese civilization were the Yellow River civilization, the
Yangtze civilization Yangtze civilization () is a generic name for various ancient Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures from the Yangtze The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to f ...
, and Liao civilization. Early evidence for Chinese
millet Millets () are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for fodder and human food. Millets are important crops in the semiarid tropics of Asia and Africa (especially in Indi ...

millet
agriculture is dated to around 7000 BC, with the earliest evidence of cultivated rice found at
Chengtoushan Chengtoushan () was a Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 years ag ...
near the Yangtze River, dated to 6500 BC. Chengtoushan may also be the site of the first walled city in China. By the beginning of the
Neolithic Revolution The Neolithic Revolution, or the (First) Agricultural Revolution, was the wide-scale transition of many human culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (Americ ...
, the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, after the Yangtze River, and the List of rivers by length, sixth-longest river system in ...
valley began to establish itself as a center of the
Peiligang culture The Peiligang culture was a Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 ye ...
, which flourished from 7000 to 5000 BC, with evidence of agriculture, constructed buildings, pottery, and burial of the dead. With agriculture came increased population, the ability to store and redistribute crops, and the potential to support specialist craftsmen and administrators. Its most prominent site is
Jiahu Jiahu () was the site of a Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 ...

Jiahu
. Some scholars have suggested that the
Jiahu symbols 100px, Example of Jiahu symbols. The Jiahu symbols () consist of 16 distinct markings on prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is the desc ...
(6600 BC) are the earliest form of proto-writing in China. However, it is likely that they should not be understood as writing itself, but as features of a lengthy period of sign-use, which led eventually to a fully-fledged system of writing. Archaeologists believe that the Peiligang culture was egalitarian, with little political organization. It eventually evolved into the
Yangshao culture The Yangshao culture was a Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 yea ...
(5000 to 3000 BC), and their stone tools were polished and highly specialized. They may also have practiced an early form of . The main food of the Yangshao people was
millet Millets () are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for fodder and human food. Millets are important crops in the semiarid tropics of Asia and Africa (especially in Indi ...

millet
, with some sites using
foxtail millet Foxtail millet, scientific name ''Setaria italica'' (synonym ''Panicum italicum L.''), is an annual grass grown for human food. It is the second-most widely planted species of millet, and the most grown millet species in Asia. The oldest evidence ...
and others broom-corn millet, though some evidence of rice has been found. The exact nature of Yangshao agriculture, small-scale slash-and-burn cultivation versus intensive agriculture in permanent fields, is currently a matter of debate. Once the soil was exhausted, residents picked up their belongings, moved to new lands, and constructed new villages. However, Middle Yangshao settlements such as Jiangzhi contain raised-floor buildings that may have been used for the storage of surplus grains. Grinding stones for making flour were also found. Later, Yangshao culture was superseded by the Longshan culture, which was also centered on the Yellow River from about 3000 to 1900 BC, its most prominent site being Taosi. The population expanded dramatically during the 3rd millennium BC, with many settlements having rammed earth walls. It decreased in most areas around 2000 BC until the central area evolved into the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the Three-age syst ...
Erlitou culture. The earliest bronze artifacts have been found in the Majiayao culture site (3100 to 2700 BC). History of China, Chinese civilization begins during the second phase of the Erlitou culture, Erlitou period (1900 to 1500 BC), with Erlitou considered the first state level society of
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the ...
. There is considerable debate whether Erlitou sites correlate to the semi-legendary Xia dynasty. The Xia dynasty (2070 to 1600 BC) is the first dynasty to be described in ancient Chinese historical records such as the ''Bamboo Annals'', first published more than a millennium later during the Western Zhou period. Although Xia is an important element in Chinese historiography, there is to date no contemporary written evidence to corroborate the dynasty. Erlitou saw an increase in bronze
metallurgy Metallurgy is a domain of Materials science, materials science and engineering that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic Chemical element, elements, their Inter-metallic alloy, inter-metallic compounds, and their mixtures, which ...
and urbanization and was a rapidly growing regional center with palatial complexes that provide evidence for social stratification. The Erlitou civilization is divided into four phases, each of roughly 50 years. During Phase I, covering , Erlitou was a rapidly growing regional center with estimated population of several thousand but not yet an urban civilization or capital. Urbanization began in Phase II, expanding to with a population around 11,000. A palace area of was demarcated by four roads. It contained the 150x50 m Palace 3, composed of three courtyards along a 150-meter axis, and Palace 5. A bronze foundry was established to the south of the palatial complex that was controlled by the elite who lived in palaces. The city reached its peak in Phase III, and may have had a population of around 24,000. The palatial complex was surrounded by a two-meter-thick rammed-earth wall, and Palaces 1, 7, 8, 9 were built. The earthwork volume of rammed earth for the base of largest Palace 1 is 20,000 m³ at least. Palaces 3 and 5 were abandoned and replaced by Palace 2 and Palace 4. In Phase IV, the population decreased to around 20,000, but building continued. Palace 6 was built as an extension of Palace 2, and Palaces 10 and 11 were built. Phase IV overlaps with the Lower phase of the Erligang culture (1600–1450  BC). Around 1600 to 1560 BC, about 6 km northeast of Erlitou, a culturally Eligang walled city was built at Yanshi, which coincides with an increase in production of arrowheads at Erlitou. This situation might indicate that the Yanshi city was competing for power and dominance with Erlitou. Production of bronzes and other elite goods ceased at the end of Phase IV, at the same time as the Erligang city of Zhengzhou was established to the east. There is no evidence of destruction by fire or war, but, during the Upper Erligang phase (1450–1300  BC), all the palaces were abandoned, and Erlitou was reduced to a village of . The earliest traditional Chinese dynasty for which there is both archeological and written evidence is the Shang dynasty (1600 to 1046 BC). Shang sites have yielded the earliest known body of Written Chinese, Chinese writing, the
oracle bone script Oracle bone script () was an ancestor of modern Chinese characters engraved on oracle bonesanimal bones or turtle plastrons used in pyromancy, pyromantic divinationin the late 2nd millennium BC, and is the earliest known form of Chinese writin ...
, mostly divinations inscribed on bones. These inscriptions provide critical insight into many topics from the politics, economy, and religious practices to the art and medicine of this early stage of Chinese civilization. Some historians argue that Erlitou should be considered an early phase of the Shang dynasty. The U.S. National Gallery of Art defines the Chinese Bronze Age as the period between about 2000 and 771 BC; a period that begins with the Erlitou culture and ends abruptly with the disintegration of Western Zhou Dynasty, Western Zhou rule. The Sanxingdui culture is another Chinese Bronze Age society, contemporaneous to the Shang dynasty, however they developed a different method of bronze-making from the Shang.Sanxingdui Museum (2006)


Ancient Andes

The earliest evidence of agriculture in the Andean region dates to around 9000 BC in Ecuador at sites of the Las Vegas culture (archaeology), Las Vegas Culture. The bottle gourd may have been the first plant cultivated. The oldest evidence of canal irrigation in South America dates to 4700 to 2500 BC in the Zaña Valley of northern
Peru , , image_flag = Flag_of_Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo_nacional_del_Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = Seal (device), National seal , nati ...

Peru
. The earliest urban settlements of the Andes, as well as North and South America, are dated to 3500 BC at Huaricanga, in the Fortaleza River (Peru), Fortaleza area, and Sechin Bajo near the Sechin River. Both sites are in Peru. The Norte Chico civilization proper is understood to have emerged around 3200 BC, as it is at that point that large-scale human settlement and communal construction across multiple sites becomes clearly apparent. Since the early 21st century, it has been established as the oldest known civilization in the Americas. The civilization flourished near the Pacific coast in the valleys of three small rivers, the Fortaleza, the Pativilca, and the Supe. These river valleys each have large clusters of sites. Further south, there are several associated sites along the Huaura River. Notable settlements include the cities of Caral, the largest and most complex Preceramic site, and Aspero. Norte Chico sites are known for their density of large sites with immense architecture. Haas argues that the density of sites in such a small area is globally unique for a nascent civilization. During the third millennium BC, Norte Chico may have been the most densely populated area of the world (excepting, possibly, northern China). The Supe, Pativilca, Fortaleza, and Huaura River valleys each have several related sites. Norte Chico is unusual in that it completely lacked ceramics and apparently had almost no visual art. Nevertheless, the civilization exhibited impressive architectural feats, including large earthwork platform mounds and sunken circular plazas, and an advanced textile industry. The platform mounds, as well as large stone warehouses, provide evidence for a stratified society and a centralized authority necessary to distribute resources such as cotton. However, there is no evidence of warfare or defensive structures during this period. Originally, it was theorized that, unlike other early civilizations, Norte Chico developed by relying on maritime food sources in place of a staple cereal. This hypothesis, the Norte Chico civilization#Theory of a maritime foundation for Andean civilization, Maritime Foundation of Andean Civilization, is still hotly debated; however, most researches now agree that agriculture played a central role in the civilization's development while still acknowledging a strong supplemental reliance on maritime proteins. The Norte Chico chiefdoms were "...almost certainly theocracy, theocratic, though not brutally so," according to Mann. Construction areas show possible evidence of feasting, which would have included music and likely alcohol, suggesting an elite able to both mobilize and reward the population. The degree of centralized authority is difficult to ascertain, but architectural construction patterns are indicative of an elite that, at least in certain places at certain times, wielded considerable power: while some of the monumental architecture was constructed incrementally, other buildings, such as the two main platform mounds at Caral, appear to have been constructed in one or two intense construction phases. As further evidence of centralized control, Haas points to remains of large stone warehouses found at Upaca, on the Pativilca, as emblematic of authorities able to control vital resources such as cotton. Economic authority would have rested on the control of cotton and edible plants and associated trade relationships, with power centered on the inland sites. Haas tentatively suggests that the scope of this economic power base may have extended widely: there are only two confirmed shore sites in the Norte Chico (Aspero and Bandurria) and possibly two more, but cotton fishing nets and domesticated plants have been found up and down the Peruvian coast. It is possible that the major inland centers of Norte Chico were at the center of a broad regional trade network centered on these resources. ''Discover (magazine), Discover'' magazine, citing Shady, suggests a rich and varied trade life: "[Caral] exported its own products and those of Aspero to distant communities in exchange for exotic imports: ''Spondylus'' shells from the coast of Ecuador, rich dyes from the Andes, Andean highlands, hallucinogenic Snuff (tobacco), snuff from the Amazon basin, Amazon." (Given the still limited extent of Norte Chico research, such claims should be treated circumspectly.) Other reports on Shady's work indicate Caral traded with communities in the Andes and in the jungles of the Amazon basin on the opposite side of the Andes. Leaders' ideological power was based on apparent access to deities and the supernatural. Evidence regarding Norte Chico religion is limited: an image of the Staff God, a leering figure with a hood and fangs, has been found on a gourd dated to 2250 BC. The Staff God is a major deity of later Andean cultures, and Winifred Creamer suggests the find points to worship of common symbols of gods. As with much other research at Norte Chico, the nature and significance of the find has been disputed by other researchers.Krysztof Makowski, as reported by Mann (1491), suggests there is little evidence that Andean civilizations worshipped an overarching deity. The figure may have been carved by a later civilization onto an ancient gourd, as it was found in stratum, strata dating between 900 and 1300 AD. The act of architectural construction and maintenance may also have been a spiritual or religious experience: a process of communal exaltation and ceremony. Shady has called Caral "the sacred city" (''la ciudad sagrada''): socio-economic and political focus was on the temples, which were periodically remodeled, with major burnt offerings associated with the remodeling. Bundles of strings uncovered at Norte Chico sites have been identified as quipu, a type of pre-writing recording device. Quipu are thought to encode numeric information, but some have conjectured that quipu have been used to encode other forms of data, possibly including literary or musical applications. However, the exact use of quipu by the Norte Chico and later Andean cultures has been widely debated. The presence of quipu and the commonality of religious symbols suggests a cultural link between Norte Chico and later Andean cultures. Circa 1800 BC, the Norte Chico civilization began to decline, with more powerful centers appearing to the south and north along the coast and to the east inside the belt of the Andes. Pottery eventually developed in the Amazon Basin and spread to the Andean culture region around 2000 BC. The next major civilization to arise in the Andes would be the Chavín culture at Chavín de Huantar, located in the Andean highlands of the present-day Ancash Region. It is believed to have been built around 900 BC and was the religious and political center of the Chavín culture, Chavín people.Burger (1992), ''Chavin and the Origins of Andean Civilization''


Mesoamerica

Maize is believed to have been first domesticated in southern Mexico about 7000 BC. The Coxcatlan caves in the Valley of Tehuacán provide evidence for agriculture in components dated between 5000 and 3400 BC. Similarly, sites such as Sipacate in Guatemala provide maize pollen analysis, pollen samples dating to 3500 BC. Around 1900 BC, the Mokaya domesticated one of the dozen species of History of chocolate, cacao. A Mokaya archaeological site provides evidence of cacao beverages dating to this time. The Mokaya are also thought to have been among the first cultures in Mesoamerica to develop a hierarchical society. What would become the Olmec civilization had its roots in early farming cultures of Tabasco, which began around 5100 to 4600 BC.Diehl, Richard A. (2004). The Olmecs : America's First Civilization. London: Thames and Hudson The emergence of the Olmec civilization has traditionally been dated to around 1600 to 1500 BC. Olmec features first emerged in the city of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán, fully coalescing around 1400 BC. The rise of civilization was assisted by the local ecology of well-watered alluvial soil, as well as by the transportation network provided by the Coatzacoalcos River basin. This environment encouraged a densely concentrated population, which in turn triggered the rise of an elite class and an associated demand for the production of the symbolic and sophisticated luxury artifacts that define Olmec culture. Many of these luxury artifacts were made from materials such as Jade use in Mesoamerica, jade, Obsidian use in Mesoamerica, obsidian, and magnetite, which came from distant locations and suggest that early Olmec elites had access to an extensive trading network in Mesoamerica. The aspect of Olmec culture perhaps most familiar today is their artwork, particularly the Olmec colossal heads.Pool, Christopher A. (2007). Olmec Archaeology and Early Mesoamerica. Cambridge World Archaeology. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. San Lorenzo was situated in the midst of a large agricultural area. San Lorenzo seems to have been largely a ceremonial site, a town without city walls, centered in the midst of a widespread medium-to-large agricultural population. The ceremonial center and attendant buildings could have housed 5,500 while the entire area, including hinterlands, could have reached 13,000. It is thought that while San Lorenzo controlled much or all of the Coatzacoalcos basin, areas to the east (such as the area where La Venta would rise to prominence) and north-northwest (such as the Tuxtla Mountains) were home to independent polities. San Lorenzo was all but abandoned around 900 BC at about the same time that La Venta rose to prominence. A wholesale destruction of many San Lorenzo monuments also occurred Wiktionary:circa, circa 950 BC, which may indicate an internal uprising or, less likely, an invasion. The latest thinking, however, is that environmental changes may have been responsible for this shift in Olmec centers, with certain important rivers changing course. La Venta became the cultural capital of the Olmec concentration in the region until its abandonment around 400 BC; constructing monumental architectural achievements such as the La Venta#Complex C (The Great Pyramid), Great Pyramid of La Venta. It contained a "concentration of power", as reflected by the sheer enormity of the architecture and the extreme value of the artifacts uncovered. La Venta is perhaps the largest Olmec city and it was controlled and expanded by an extremely complex hierarchical system with a king, as the ruler and the elites below him. Priests had power and influence over life and death and likely great political sway as well. Unfortunately, not much is known about the political or social structure of the Olmec, though new dating techniques might, at some point, reveal more information about this elusive culture. It is possible that the signs of status exist in the artifacts recovered at the site such as depictions of feathered headdresses or of individuals wearing a mirror on their chest or forehead.Colman 2010 "High-status objects were a significant source of power in the La Venta polity political power, economic power, and ideological power. They were tools used by the elite to enhance and maintain rights to rulership". It has been estimated that La Venta would need to be supported by a population of at least 18,000 people during its principal occupation. To add to the mystique of La Venta, the alluvial soil did not preserve skeletal remains, so it is difficult to observe differences in burials. However, colossal heads provide proof that the elite had some control over the lower classes, as their construction would have been extremely labor-intensive. "Other features similarly indicate that many laborers were involved". In addition, excavations over the years have discovered that different parts of the site were likely reserved for elites and other parts for non-elites. This segregation of the city indicates that there must have been social classes and therefore social inequality. The exact cause of the decline of the Olmec culture is uncertain. Between 400 and 350 BC, the population in the eastern half of the Olmec heartland dropped precipitously. This depopulation was probably the result of serious environmental changes that rendered the region unsuited for large groups of farmers, in particular changes to the riverine environment that the Olmec depended upon for agriculture, hunting and gathering, and transportation. These changes may have been triggered by tectonic upheavals or subsidence, or the Siltation, silting up of rivers due to agricultural practices. Within a few hundred years of the abandonment of the last Olmec cities, successor cultures became firmly established. The Tres Zapotes site, on the western edge of the Olmec heartland, continued to be occupied well past 400 BC, but without the hallmarks of the Olmec culture. This post-Olmec culture, often labeled Epi-Olmec culture, Epi-Olmec, has features similar to those found at Izapa, some 550 km (330 miles) to the southeast. The Olmecs are sometimes referred to as the mother culture of Mesoamerica, as they were the first Mesoamerican civilization and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed.Coe, Michael D.; Rex Koontz (2002). Mexico: from the Olmecs to the Aztecs (5th edition, revised and enlarged ed.). London and New York: Thames & Hudson. However, the causes and degree of Olmec influences on Mesoamerican cultures has been a subject of debate over many decades.Wilford, John Noble; "Mother Culture, or Only a Sister?”, The New York Times, 15 March 2005. Practices introduced by the Olmec include Bloodletting in Mesoamerica, ritual bloodletting and the Mesoamerican ballgame; hallmarks of subsequent Mesoamerican societies such as the Maya people, Maya and Aztec. Although the Mesoamerican writing system would fully develop later, early Olmec ceramics show representations that may be interpreted as codices.


Cradle of Western civilization

There is academic consensus that Classical Greece was the seminal culture that provided the foundation of modern Western culture, democracy, art, theatre, philosophy, and science. For this reason it is known as the cradle of Western Civilization. Along with Greece, Ancient Rome, Rome has sometimes been described as a birthplace or as the cradle of Western Civilization because of the role the city had in politics, republicanism, law, architecture, warfare and Western Christianity.


Timeline

The following timeline shows a timeline of cultures, with the approximate dates of the emergence of civilization (as discussed in the article) in the featured areas, the primary cultures associated with these early civilizations. It is important to note that the timeline is not indicative of the beginning of human habitation, the start of a specific ethnic group, or the development of Neolithic cultures in the area – any of which often occurred significantly earlier than the emergence of civilization proper. In the case of the Indus Valley Civilization, this was followed by a period of de-urbanization and regionalisation, and the co-existence of indigenous local agricultural cultures and the pastoral Indo-Aryans, who came from Central Asia.


See also

* Chronology of the ancient Near East * Cradle of Humankind * Human history * Civilization state * Skara Brae and Barnhouse Settlement 3180 BC.


Notes


References


Citations


Sources

* * * * {{Western culture Ancient history Ancient Near East Civilizations History of the Mediterranean Archaeology of the Near East Archaeological terminology Origins, Civilizations