Main Timelines of History: The Ultimate Visual Guide To The Events That Shaped The World

Timelines of History: The Ultimate Visual Guide To The Events That Shaped The World

,
Beginning with the emergence of our earliest African ancestors and taking readers through the history of cultures and nations around the world to arrive at the present day, "Timelines of History" caters to readers who want a broad overview, a good story to read, or the nitty-gritty of historical events.

With easily accessible cross-references that build bite-size pieces of information into a narrative that leads readers back and forth through time, "Timelines of History" makes the past accessible to all families, students, and the general reader.
Categories: History
Year: 2011
Language: english
Pages: 514
ISBN 10: 0756686814
ISBN 13: 9780756686819
File: PDF, 144.06 MB

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smithsonian

smithsonian

LONDON, NEW YORK, MELBOURNE,
MUNICH, AND DELHI

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Managing Editor
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SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION
Project Co-ordinator
Ellen Nanney

First published in Great Britain in 2011
by Dorling Kindersley Limited
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from
the British Library.

A Penguin Company

Colour reproduction by Alta Images, London

Copyright © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Printed and bound in China by Hung Hing

ISBN: 978 1 4053 6712 7

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without
prior written permission of the copyright owner.

Discover more at
www.dk.com

CONTRIBUTORS
HUMAN ORIGINS
Dr. Fiona Coward

TRADE AND INVENTION
Joel Levy

TECHNOLOGY AND SUPERPOWERS
R.G. Grant

Research Fellow at Royal Holloway University
of London; contributed to DK’s Prehistoric.
Additional text by Dr. Jane McIntosh

Writer specializing in history and scientific
history; books include Lost Cities and Lost
Histories.

History writer who has published more than
20 books, including Battle, Soldier, Flight,
and History for DK.

EARLY CIVILIZATIONS
Dr. Jen Green

REFORMATION AND EXPLORATION
Thomas Cussans

Sally Regan

Author of over 250 books on a range
of subjects from history to nature.
Additional text by Dr. Jane McIntosh

Author and contributor to The Times
newspaper; previous titles for DK include
Timelines of World History and History.
Additional text by Frank Ritter

THE CLASSICAL AGE
Philip Parker
Historian and writer; books include The
Empire Stops Here and DK Eyewitness
Companion to World History.

THE AGE OF REVOLUTION
Dr. Carrie Gibson
Writer who has contributed to The Guardian
and Observer newspapers; gained a doctorate
in 18th- and 19th-century history from the
University of Cambridge, UK.

Contributor to several books for DK including
History, World War II, and Science; awardwinning documentary maker whose films
include Shell Shock and Bomber Command
for the UK’s Channel 4.

GLOSSARY
Richard Beatty

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION
Smithsonian contributors include historians
and museum specialists from:

CONSULTANTS

National Air and Space Museum

Dr. Jane McIntosh

Dr. David Parrott

8MYA–700BCE
Senior Research Associate, Faculty of Asian and
Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge, UK

1450–1749
Fellow in History and University Lecturer,
New College, University of Oxford, UK

Professor Neville Morley

Dr. Michael Broers

700BCE–599CE
Professor of Ancient History, School of
Humanities, University of Bristol, UK

1750–1913
Fellow and Tutor, Lady Margaret Hall,
University of Oxford, UK

Dr. Roger Collins

Professor Richard Overy

600–1449
Honorary Fellow, School of History, Classics,
and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, UK

1914–present
Professor of History, University of Exeter, UK

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space
Museum is one of the world’s most popular
museums. Its mission is to educate and
inspire visitors by preserving and displaying
aeronautical and space flight artifacts.

National Museum of American History
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of
American History dedicates its collections and
scholarship to inspiring a broader understanding
of the American nation and its many peoples.

National Museum of Natural History
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural
History is the most visited natural history
museum in the world and the most visited
museum in the Smithsonian complex.

1 2 3 4
8MYA–3000BCE

3000–700BCE

700BCE–599CE

600–1449

010 HUMAN
ORIGINS

022 EARLY
CIVILIZATIONS

042 THE
CLASSICAL AGE

106 TRADE &
INVENTION

Features

Features

Features

Features

014 Colonizing the Planet

028 The Story of Writing

048 Ancient Greece

122 The Vikings

020 Prehistoric Peoples

032 Ancient Empires

054 The Story of
Metalworking

134 The Islamic World

038 Ancient Egypt

064 The Story of Money

144 The Aztecs, Incas,
and Maya

074 The Rise of the
Roman Empire

154 The Story of Printing

084 Ancient Rome
096 Classical Trade

CONTENTS

5 6 7 8
164 REFORMATION
& EXPLORATION

254 THE AGE
OF REVOLUTION

338 TECHNOLOGY
& SUPERPOWERS

468 DIRECTORY

Features

Features

Features

Categories

172 Voyages of Exploration

262 European Nation States

344 The Great War

476 Rulers and Leaders

182 The Story of Astronomy

274 The Story of Steam Power

350 Soviet Propaganda

478 History in Figures

190 Edo Period

282 The Story of Medicine

354 World War I

480 Wars

198 Mughal Empire

290 American Indians

364 The Story of Flight

480 Explorers

204 The Renaissance

298 The Story of Electricity

216 The Story of Arms
and Armor

310 American Civil War

374 The Story of
Communication

482 Inventions and
Discoveries

388 War in Europe

483 Philosophy and Religion

324 The Imperial World

394 War in the Pacific

485 Culture and Learning

332 The Story of the Car

402 World War II

488 Disasters

230 The Rise and Fall of
the Ottoman Empire
238 The Story of Navigation
250 The Story of Agriculture

316 The Qing Dynasty

412 The Space Race
422 End of Empire
428 The Story of Genetics
442 Collapse of the USSR

490 Glossary

452 The European Union

494 Index

466 Global Economy

510 Acknowledgments

Forewor d
Like many people, my early
enthusiasm for history focused
on particular dates and events:
1588 and the defeat of the Spanish
Armada; the battle of Waterloo in
1815; the fall of Constantinople
in 1453. Some had personal
connections: July 1, 1916, when
my grandfather, serving as an
artilleryman, lost several of his
closest friends on the first day
of the Somme offensive.
From the earliest times, history
was cast as a grand chronicle
of events and actions, the work of
often larger-than-life protagonists,
and was intended to enthrall and
capture the imagination in the
same way as a great novel. But
during the 20th century, academic
historians grew skeptical about the
“history of the event.” Most often
the events were battles, treaties,
and political struggles, a narrative
that excluded the lives of the
great majority of men, women,
and children. In reaction to this,
historians focused on cultural,
social, and economic continuities,
looking for their evidence in
everyday objects, trading records,
accounts of childhood and old age.
The result was certainly a richer
and more diverse account of human
experience, but one that often left
little sense of change over time.
As the present book shows, history
constructed on a timeline does not
have to be a narrow account of war
and conquest, treaties and treason.
All of these feature here, but so
do the dates of intellectual and
technological innovations, the
creation of key works of art, crucial
shifts in patterns of agriculture,

exploration, and commerce. This is
an exhilarating and comprehensive
account of human creativity as
much as its destructiveness, of
discovery and understanding as
well as natural disasters and
human folly. Spectacularly
illustrated and succinctly explained,
key events in history from the first
beginnings of agriculture to the
most recent astrophysical
discoveries are laid out along what is
probably the most comprehensive
timeline ever assembled.
No less exciting for me in helping
to compose this book and to choose
from all facets of human history
to build up the timeline, is the
contribution that History Year by Year
makes to an understanding of global
history. Throughout the book, events,
discoveries, and achievements
occurring in Europe and North
America are set against the equally
momentous and significant events
in the Mideast and East Asia, India,
Africa, or South America and the
Pacific Rim. This is a history that
stimulates awareness of a wider
world by placing events from
across that world side by side
and reminding us that progress
and discovery, feats of social
organization, and challenges to a
political status quo are no monopoly
of the Western world, but as likely to
originate in India or Egypt as in
France and Spain.
The design of this book offers a
unique opportunity to appreciate a
global history of mankind in all its
facets. I hope that you enjoy reading
History Year by Year and using it as a
reference as much as we enjoyed
planning and writing it.

DAVID PARROTT
University of Oxford

Lost city of the Incas
Perched 7,970 ft (2,430 m) above sea level,
in the Peruvian Andes, the Inca citadel of
Machu Picchu was probably constructed in
the 15th century, and abandoned in the 16th.

1

HUMAN
ORIGINS
8 MYA–3000 BCE
Our earliest ancestors lived in Africa almost eight million
years ago. Over seven million years later, we appeared and
developed the skills—including sophisticated toolmaking
and agriculture—that allowed us to colonize the world.

8–4.5 MYA

4.5–2 MYA

1.8–1.6 MYA

2 –1.8 MYA

Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania is a site of great archaeological significance and is sometimes referred
to as the “Cradle of Mankind.” At least two species of early hominins are associated with this area.
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN
HUMANS AND OTHER APES DNA

SEVERAL DIFFERENT
AUSTRALOPITHECINE species

and blood proteins suggest that
our lineage separated from that
of the chimpanzees between
8 and 6 million years ago (MYA).
Only a few fossil specimens date
to this time: Sahelanthropus
tchadensis (7–6 MYA), Orrorin

lived in Africa between 4.2 and
2 MYA. Although they walked on
two legs most of the time, they
were rather small and apelike

7 MYA

THE TIME
WHEN
THE FIRST
HUMAN
ANCESTOR
APPEARS
tugenensis (6.1–5 MYA), and
two species of Ardipithecus,
kadabba (5.8–5.2 MYA) and
ramidus (4.4 MYA). While all
of these species seem to
have walked on two legs
like us, it is not certain
whether any were actual
ancestors of humans.
Because species are
constantly evolving, and
individuals of those species
can vary, it is difficult to tell
from isolated and often poorly
preserved fossils which species
they should be assigned to, or how
these are related to one another.
However, these fossils do tell us
a great deal about what the last
common ancestor we shared
with chimpanzees was like.

s
n
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om pan rge
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H
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o
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b lks
ch
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12

and still lived partially in trees.
Their brains were about the size
of those of modern chimpanzees,
but some australopithecines seem
to have used tools. The earliest
stone tools come from Ethiopia
and date to 2.6 MYA , but bones
with cut marks made by stone
tools have been found associated
with Australopithecus afarensis
nearby, and date to 3.4 MYA. The
australopithecines’ descendants
followed two distinct modes of
life: members of the genus
Paranthropus had huge jaws
and big teeth for eating tough
vegetable foods; meanwhile, Homo
rudolfensis and H. habilis seem to
have eaten more protein, using
tools to get at the protein-rich
marrow inside long-bones by
scavenging from carnivore kills.

ULTIMATELY, THE
PARANTHROPINES’ WAY OF LIFE

was unsuccessful and they became
extinct after about 1.2 MYA , while
their cousins Homo habilis and
H. rudolfensis survived. These
early Homo species were not very
different from australopithecines.
It was with Homo ergaster (1.8
MYA) that our ancestors started
to look much more familiar.
H. ergaster was tall and slender,
and may have been the first
hominin (a term used to describe
humans and their ancestors)
without much body hair. Their
brains were larger than those of
their ancestors, and they lost the
last of their adaptations to
tree-climbing to become fully
adapted to walking and running.

ACHEULEAN TOOL

TOOLS
Many animal species use natural objects as tools, but the
manufacture of stone tools is unique to hominins. The earliest are
simply sharp flakes broken off stone cobbles by striking them with
a “hammerstone.” These are known as “Oldowan” tools, after
Olduvai Gorge, where they were first found. Later tools, such as
Acheulean handaxes, required more skill. Our manufacture of tools
might be one explanation for the evolution of the human brain.

t
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MY
ed Diki
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A
MY

6
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cy,
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“
3
YA
he
8 M pit e; 1 f
3.1 tr alo aliv es o t
,
l
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s
a
rs
Au ensi fem “fi of
r
p
m
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a
r
u
af s an s fo gro ssils
ale age ily” is fo
m ng
s
fam ren
ryi
va
af a
.
A

Swanscombe
Mauer
Steinheim

Atapuerca
Tautavel 1.2 MYA
Ceprano
Isernia
la Pineta

EUROPE
Petralona

Dmanisi

Kocabas
Ubeidiya

1.7 MYA

PROBABLY
MORE THAN
1.8 MYA
Bodo

AFRICA
Lake Turkana
Olduvai Gorge

Konso-Gardula
Koobi Fora
Olorgesailie

NOT LONG AFTER THE
APPEARANCE of Homo ergaster,

OLDOWAN TOOL

Lucy
This unusually complete skeleton
of Australopithecus afarensis,
discovered in Kenya in 1974, was
named after the Beatles’ song
“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Boxgrove

0.95 MYA

s
,” i, ha
an
)
m oise and
r
mo n”
2
1. cke us b eeth
Ho y ma
–
A
a
t
p
5
d
h
MY
2 . utcr hro ing
an wit
.6
t
“N r an rind aws .9–1 s (“h ted d
j
i
n
g
a
a
l
i
1
l
a nes
P ge fu
c
bi
ha asso tools d bo
hu wer
e
s
o
i
p
ne rk
sto t-ma
cu
A
MY

YA

1M s
2– o p u t
hr firs
t
n
r a us, e to
Pa ust pin red
b ro ve
o
r th o
c
n
ra dis
pa be

mo
Ho uch
m
re
8
1. er is mo its
d n
t
n
s
a ha
rs
ga
er aller er t esto
t nd nc
a
sle
A
MY

hominins expanded their range
beyond Africa for the first time.
A species called H. georgicus
appeared in Dmanisi, Georgia, by
1.7 MYA . Another close relative of
Homo ergaster, Homo erectus,
lived in China and Indonesia
perhaps not long afterward.
Some archaeologists believe that
earlier groups of hominins may
also have left Africa, as some of
the skulls from Dmanisi and from
the much later site of Liang Bua
in Flores, Indonesia, (currently
known as Homo floresiensis)
resemble those of Homo habilis
and Homo rudolfensis.
Living farther north would have
required a different way of life

t
es
rli in sia
Ea min ura ,
ho m E us)
1.7 own fro rgic in
kn sils geo nisi
fos omo ma
(H m D a
i
fro org
Ge
A
MY

n
lea
eu r –
ch pea k a
A
p
r
A
MY
s a ma step
65 xe y
1. nda ma cant man e
ha they nifi n hu enc
sig rd i llig
wa inte
for

1.6–0.35 MYA

350,000–160,000 YA

,,

,,

ALL LIVING HUMANS DESCENDED
FROM COMMON ANCESTORS WHO LIVED
IN AFRICA LESS THAN 200,000 YEARS AGO.
Stephen Jay Gould, American paleontologist, from I Have Landed: The End of
a Beginning in Natural History, 2002

Zhoukoudian

1.6–1.3 MYA

Hexian

ASIA

Nanjing
Yunxian

Lantian

Narmada

1.5–1 MYA

Trinil
Sangiran Mojokerto
Ngandong

KEY
Site of fossil finds
More likely route
Less likely route

Hominins beyond Africa
Our earliest ancestors evolved in
Africa. Possible dispersal routes
from Africa are shown on this map,
with dates referring to the earliest
fossils known from each region.

to life in the African savanna.
The climate was cooler and
environments were more
seasonal, with significant
variation in food resources
over the course of a year.
Fewer edible plants meant
that hominins would have had
to rely more on harder-to-find
and fiercely competed-for
animal protein for food. They
needed to move over greater
distances and work together to
share resources and information
to survive in these regions.
s

ind

s
oa
d t but
1
r
e
t
5 – o e da a,
1.6 Hom ava 5 my date a
of m J s 1. y to my
fro rly a ikel nd 1
ea re l rou
o
m m a
fro
A F tus
MY
ec

wn
no a
t k Chin n
s
e
e in
rli
be s
Ea acts ave ectu
A
h
r
M Y rtif
o o e from e
6 a
t
tt
s
1.
gh Hom ssil y da ya
u
l
o
th e by gh fo rent .8 m
0
u ur
ad
m ltho n c only
a gio to
re

ACHEULEAN HANDAXES made by
Homo ergaster and H. erectus were
produced across most of Africa
and Eurasia, and demonstrate the
ability to learn complex skills
from one another and pass them
down over generations. To make
these tools, knappers had to think
several steps ahead in order to
select a suitable stone and to
prepare and place each strike.
Handaxes were used for a wide
range of activities, including
butchery, but they might also have
been important for personal or
group identity, demonstrating
their makers’ strength and skill.

While Homo Erectus continued
to thrive in Asia, Homo antecessor
had appeared as far west as
northern Spain and Italy by 1.2 MYA.
Marks on their bones at the site of
Atapuerca in Spain suggest they
practiced cannibalism. However,
these early colonists may not
have thrived in these unfamiliar
landscapes, as very few sites are
known. By 600,000 years ago,
a new hominin species, Homo
heidelbergensis, had spread
much more widely across Europe.
H. heidelbergensis seems to have
been a good hunter, or at least a
proficient scavenger.
BY AROUND 350,000 YEARS AGO,
Homo heidelbergensis
73 cubic inches
(1,204 cubic cm)

Australopithecines
28 cubic inches
(461 cubic cm)
Paranthropines
32 cubic inches
(517 cubic cm)

Homo neanderthalensis
87 cubic inches
(1,426 cubic cm)

Homo habilis
Homo rudolfensis
40 cubic inches
(648 cubic cm)
Homo erectus
Homo ergaster
59 cubic inches
(969 cubic cm)

Homo sapiens
90 cubic inches
(1,478 cubic cm)

HOMININ BRAIN SIZES
Humans have a disproportionately large brain for a primate of
their size, but archaeologists disagree about how and why this
expansion happened. Switching to fatty and calorific foods such
as bone marrow and meat may have “powered” brain growth, and
also demanded more complex tools and effective hunting and
foraging skills. Social skills were also a part of this process, as
increasing group cooperation and pair-bonding were necessary
to sustain the longer periods of childhood that infants needed
for their larger brains to develop.

na t
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ur mos ton mo
T
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o ia
a
A“
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MY
an ske nt H an
1.5 y” is ete sce Tanz
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bo mp dol om
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of gast
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M
a
E
n
a
h
4
in
0. erth ross
e- rs
c
Fir pea
d
s
YA
an rs a
M
e
en
4
N pea
0. ood
ap
w
A
MY

while Homo erectus continued to
hold sway over eastern Asia,
Homo heidelbergensis in Europe
and Western Asia had evolved into
Homo neanderthalensis.
Neanderthals were stockier and
stronger than modern humans,
and their brains were as large
or even larger, although shaped
slightly differently. Neanderthals
were almost certainly very
accomplished hunters. They were
also highly skilled at making
stone tools and heavy thrusting
spears with which they tackled
even large and dangerous animal
prey, such as horses and bison.
However, despite burying their
dead—which may have indicated
ceremonial practices or belief in
an afterlife—Neanderthals do not
seem to have created more than
the most limited art or used any
symbols, as all modern humans
do. Whether or not they spoke in a
similar way to modern humans is
also difficult to establish. Although
ce
en es
vid cor
E
nt
d
YA
ne
re e
3 M epa ak po
.
0 pr o m om
of ed t le-c
us ltip
u
m ols
to

Burying the dead
Neanderthals often disposed
of their dead with care. Some
were buried in graves, as here
at Kebara Cave in Israel, which
dates to 60,000 BCE.

their throat and voice-box anatomy
suggests that a Neanderthal
language may have been limited
compared to that of humans, they
must have communicated in some
fashion, perhaps by combining a
less complex form of vocalization
with expressive miming.

200,000

THE NUMBER
OF YEARS THE
NEANDERTHAL
DOMINATED
EUROPE AND
WESTERN ASIA

t
d
ha
ise erek be
c
In B ld
A
u
M Y rom co
f
l
28
0. bble srae
I
pe m, rt
Ra st a
fir

e
YA
ag
7 M eng ting
2
1
.
n
ls
– 0 ha hu
86 ert nal
0.1 and mu kills
Ne com ass
in d m
an

ns
n
ial
er
pie e
dr
od etal
sa som t
on mon
M
o
h
l
s
e
in
bu
m s
YA
toc om an
for
sk ar o
Ho ll ha res, tive
3M
Mi st c um
A
ce nts
Y
A
0. man ppe om s
c
u
u
h
h
n
Y
a
t
l
e
a
e
6 M ; sk ea tin wit
all
2M e
hu its an H ensi
vid m
0. is th r of
0.1 altu ive f s dis tics ans
t e l pig
tra fric erg
t
s
id imi are ris um
e
to
A lb
Fir tura
h
Ev ces
pr sh acte ern
YA
ide
a
an
8 M of n
he
ar d
2
ch mo
0. se
u

13

8

MYA —3 0 0 0 BCE

HUMAN ORIGINS

COLONIZING THE
E

PLANET

M
A
H

THE SPREAD OF MODERN HUMANS ACROSS THE WORLD

T
Clovis

NORTH AMERICA

22,000
YEARS AGO
Meadowcroft

Buttermilk Creek
Cactus Hill

AT L A N T I C
OCEAN

T H
S O U

Homo sapiens’ colonization of the globe involved many stops, starts, and sometimes retreats, as well
as waves of different groups of people in some areas. Homo sapiens may have moved into Eurasia
via the Mediterranean coast of western Asia, spreading into Western Europe by 35,000 years ago
(YA). Archaeological evidence suggests that people may also have taken a “southern route”
across Arabia into southern Asia. There may also have been movement eastward, perhaps
much earlier, as stone tools have been found in India from 77,000 YA and Malaysia from
70,000 YA. Some possible Homo sapiens finds from southern China are dated to 68,000 YA
(Liujiang), and even 100,000 YA (Zhirendong). However, these finds remain controversial, and
most scholars favor later dates here. In Australia, widespread colonization probably did
not occur until 45,000 YA, though some sites have been dated to as early as 60,000 YA.
Farther north, Homo sapiens first spread across northern Eurasia around 35,000YA.
However, they may have retreated during the last Ice Age, and not recolonized the
region until after 14,000–13,000 YA. Genetically, the North American colonists are likely
to have originated in East Asia. They probably traveled across the plain of “Beringia”—
now beneath the Bering Straits between Siberia and Alaska, but exposed by low sea
levels at the height of the last Ice Age. Distinctive “Clovis” spear points (flaked on both
sides) are found across North America around 12,000 YA, so modern humans were
widespread at that point, but earlier sites are also known, including South American
sites such as Monte Verde (15,500–15,000 YA).

12,000
YEARS AGO

N

Skeletal and DNA evidence suggests that our species, Homo sapiens, evolved
in Africa and then spread across the globe. The first traces of modern
humans beyond Africa come from fossils in Israel and possibly from stone
tools found in Arabia. They date to before 100,000 years ago.

O

R

ASIA

R

I

PA C I F I C
OCEAN

A

3000 BCE
Philippine
Islands
2500 BCE

Pedra
Furada

M

Hawaiian
Islands
500 BCE –1 CE

E

500 BCE
Borneo

New
Guinea

R

1500 BCE

400–1200 CE
1400–750 BCE

A
I C

Samoan
Islands
Fiji

AUSTRALIA
1250 CE
NEW
ZEALAND

LATE ARRIVALS
The islands of Oceania were some of the last parts of the
globe to be colonized, via the Philippines, by
Austronesian-speaking early farmers from Taiwan. The
more remote northern and eastern islands of Micronesia
and Polynesia remained uninhabited until after 700 CE,
and New Zealand was populated as late as 1250 CE.

14

PA C I F I C
OCEAN

Tracking language
The spread of languages can
often be tracked to reflect the
movement of people. This map
shows the spread of Austronesian
speakers across Oceania. Earlier
settlers were already present in
some western areas.

Monte Verde

15,000–11,000
YEARS AGO

C

A

13,000 YEARS AGO

Bering Straits

C O LO N I Z I N G T H E P L A N E T

14,000 YEARS AGO

Swan Point

Ushki Lake

Bluefish Caves
Tuluaq Hill
(SluicewayTuluaq complex)

KEY
General direction
of Homo sapiens
around the world

Berelekh
Yana
Ust-Mil

Site of early
Homo sapiens

Diuktai

35,000
YEARS AGO

Kara-Bom

31,000 YEARS AGO

E

Yamashita-Cho
Kostienki

A

45,000 YEARS AGO

S

I

A

Bacho
Kiro
Temnata
Uçagizli Magara
Cave
Ksar Akil
Skhul Qafzeh

77,000–45,000 YEARS AGO Liujiang

C

Zhirendong

OC

Cova Beneito

Jebel Irhoud

P

FI

40,000
YEARS AGO

O

CI

El Pendo

R

Istállöskö
Pestera cu Oase

Le Piage
Riparo Mochi

Abríc Romaní

Gorham's Cave

U

32,000
YEARS AGO

PA

Arcy-sur-Cure
Saint Césaire
El Castillo
Cueva Morín
Gato Preto

E

Trou Magrite
Höhlenstein-Stadel
Vindija Cave
Korolevo I

Paviland Cave
Kent's Cavern

Tianyuan

42,000
YEARS AGO

EA

N

100,000
YEARS AGO

Jebel Faya

Matenkupkum, Balof 2,
and Panakiwuk

Jwalapuram

A

F

R

I

C A

Niah Caves

Kota Tampan

160,000 YEARS AGO

Herto

Huon Peninsula

INDIAN
OCEAN

Omo Kibish

1.7 MYA Temperate grassland,
mediterranean shrubland
Malakunanja
Nawalabila I

Riwi and
Carpenter's Gap

A

Ngarrabulgan

TIME

L

I

Puritjarra

40,000 YA

Changing environments
The ancient ancestors of modern humans
evolved in the African tropics. Over time, as
human species evolved larger brains and
developed more advanced skills and behavior,
they became better equipped to deal with the
challenges of new environments.

Devil's
Lair

Allen's Cave

Cuddie
Springs

Lake Mungo

A

Going global
Skeletal and genetic evidence suggests that modern humans
originated in Africa and spread across the globe from there,
as reflected on this map. This is called the “Out of Africa”
theory. An alternative “multiregional” theory suggests that
Homo sapiens evolved simultaneously in many different parts
of the world, from ancestors who had left Africa much earlier.

A

R

Upper Swan

dry broadleaf forest, savanna

T

7 MYA Tropical and subtropical

S

Klasies
River Mouth

U

Blombos Cave

45,000
YEARS AGO

Temperate forest,
boreal forest, tundra

Kow Swamp
Willandra Lakes

15

45,000–35,000 YA

35,000–28,000 YA

These cave paintings from Lascaux, France, date to around 17,000 years ago. Most cave paintings are from a similar
period, though some were created by the earliest Homo sapiens to arrive in western Europe, around 32,000 years ago.
IN AFRICA, HOMININ FOSSILS

HUMANS SPREAD RAPIDLY

gradually began to reveal the
characteristic skeletal traits of
Homo sapiens from around
400,000 YA: smaller brow ridges,
higher and rounder skulls, and
chins. DNA analysis of living
humans suggests that the
common ancestor of all living
humans (known as Mitochondrial
Eve) lived in Africa around
200,000 YA. An Ethiopian fossil

across Europe and Asia. In
Europe, modern humans
appeared in Turkey from 40,000 YA,
and in western Europe shortly
afterward. In Asia, fossils of Homo
sapiens in Indonesia and China
date to at least 42,000 YA, and the
sea crossing to Australia
occurred before 45,000 YA. These
dates suggest that the earliest
modern humans in Asia may
have encountered groups of
Homo erectus, who survived in
China until at least 40,000 years
ago. In Indonesia the picture
was even more complicated.
Fossils found on the island of

250,000

YEARS AGO

Prepared core and flake
Neanderthals and other hominins
prepared a stone core before
striking off a sharp flake to use.
In Europe this technology is
known as the “Mousterian.”

skull from 160,000 YA is almost
modern in shape; this has been
identified as a subspecies of
modern humans, Homo sapiens
idaltu. Humans moved north into
Western Asia some time before
100,000 YA, but they do not seem
to have stayed there for long.
It is debated whether uniquely
human behaviors such as
language and the ability to use
symbols evolved before or after
modern human anatomy. One
theory is that such behaviors
became vital only after 74,000 YA,
when the massive eruption of
Mount Toba in Indonesia triggered
a global “volcanic winter.” DNA
analysis suggests that many
human groups died out at this

time and, in such harsh conditions,
complex modern language and
symbolism would have allowed
groups to exchange resources
and information with one
another, which could have made
the difference between survival
and extinction. However, others
argue that the impact of the
eruption of Mount Toba has been
exaggerated, and that archaeology
in Africa suggests complex hunting
practices and the development of
symbolism even before this.
It is not clear when modern
humans first spread into Eurasia.
Some researchers argue they left
Arabia before 74,000 YA. Others
say the major migration occurred
later, 50,000 YA, and via western
Asia, after developing a new form
of stone-tool technology that
involved producing long, thin flint
“blades,” which probably formed
part of composite tools.

WHEN HOMO
SAPIENS FIRST
APPEARED

d
YA
an
00 h es
,0 f fis t sit
5
o
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00
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Inc rin th A
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in

st
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ar rial
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u
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po

16

ll
rly
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Ea t
A
ed , s at
n
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90 in
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75 lade and ave
46 der s a n As
11 mo
,
o an er
“b ads os C
Ho
M
m th
be omb
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B
in

f
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p
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YA
m
00 Su te
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mo
YA
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f
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00 on o
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n
4
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ea

Flores date to less than 38,000
years ago, and seem to represent
specialized, extremely small
forms of Homo erectus, or
perhaps even the descendants
of earlier hominins. More
evidence comes from Denisova
Cave in Russia—DNA analysis
of bones found here reveals
genetic material distinct from
that of both modern humans and
Neanderthals, dated to around
40,000 YA. It seems increasingly
likely that several groups
descended from hominins who
left Africa before Homo sapiens
may have coexisted in Eurasia
at this time.

,,

160,000–45,000 YA

THE
NEANDERTHALS
WERE NOT
APE-MEN…
THEY WERE
AS HUMAN AS
US, BUT THEY
REPRESENTED
A DIFFERENT
BRAND OF
HUMANITY.

,,

Chris Stringer and Clive Gamble, from
In Search of the Neanderthals, 1993

IN EUROPE, MODERN HUMANS

HOMO SAPIENS

NEANDERTHAL

MODERN HUMANS AND NEANDERTHALS
Neanderthal skulls (right) were about the same size as
anatomically modern human skulls (left), but they had lower,
more sloping foreheads and a double arch of bone over their
eyes that created heavy brow ridges. Their lower faces jutted
out and they did not have chins. Overall, Neanderthal skeletons
reveal that they were much more muscular than modern humans,
as well as being extremely physically active and well-adapted
to cold climates.

n

tio

a
niz
olo
C
a
YA
ne
00 Gui
,0
40 New
of

te
La mo
YA
o ina
0
H
0
,0 ng Ch
40 rvivi s in
su ectu
er

mo
Ho ina
YA
Ch
00
,0 s in
4 0 ien
p
sa

n lls
nia fa
pa ash pe
m
;
Ca taly uro
I fE
YA
00 n in h o
0
,
c
o
37 upti mu
er ross
ac

In
A
0 Y es
00 logi nd
,
28 no l a n
a io
0 – ch
00 e te erth ract
,
36 om and nte
i
e
,s
pe t N an
ro es um
Eu ugg h
s

overlapped with Neanderthals,
who survived until at least 30,000
years ago. How and why
Neanderthals died out is one of
the most intensely debated topics
in archaeology. There is little
evidence of violent interactions
between the species, and
comparison of DNA increasingly
suggests that there may have
been some exchange of mating
partners between the groups.
Early humans may have
outcompeted their relatives for
food and raw materials in the
rapidly changing environmental
conditions. Environments at the
time were highly unstable, so
even a slight increase in
competition could have been
significant. However, populations
were small and spread out, and
coexisted for up to 10,000 years
in Europe, and more than 30,000

llA
0 Y an we s
00 naci ies cros
,
35 rig log d a ing e
Au chno ishe clud ston
te tabl , in stic
es rope teri rt
Eu arac nd a
ch ls a
too

H

st
lie
ar pan
E
a
J
YA
00 in
,0 ns
32 apie
os
om

28,000–21,000 YA

21,000–18,000 YA

18,000–12,000 YA

AT L A N T I C
O C E A N

in Indonesia. Alternatively, the
exchange of resources and
information allowed by modern
humans’ language and symbol
use, and their planned and
flexible technologies made
Homo sapiens better able to
withstand climatic downturns
than Neanderthals.
Others believe that these
behaviors were not unique to
modern humans. Hominins
would have needed to use rafts
or boats to reach the island of
Flores in Indonesia by 800,000 YA .
Some late Neanderthal sites
also contain elements of
technologies normally associated
with Homo sapiens, although it is
possible that Neanderthals may
have copied, traded with, or even
stolen from modern humans.
A combination of environmental
unrest and increased competition
is currently considered to be the
most likely explanation for
Neanderthal extinction.

EURO P E
AT L A N T I C
OCEAN

Me

KEY

dit

er

ra

ne

an

Se

a

Neanderthal sites

PAC I F I C
O C E A N
I N D I A N
O C E A N

THE MAXIMUM EXTENT OF THE LAST ICE AGE
European climates after 23,000 BCE grew steadily cooler, and
during the “Last Glacial Maximum” (21,000–18,000 YA), ice caps
covered most of northern Europe. Farther south, huge areas of
grassland with few trees offered good hunting for groups of
humans able to survive the cold.

THE “GRAVETTIAN” CULTURE OF

AT THE HEIGHT OF THE GLACIAL

Europe and Russia (28,000–
21,000 YA) is known for its
elaborate sites, which often have
complex structures and burials,
as well as large amounts of shell
jewelry, and sculpted bone and
antler. Also found at Gravettian
sites are some of the earliest
known clay objects, including some
of the famous “Venus” figurines.
These may have been fertility or
religious charms, or part of a
system of exchange between
social networks across the region
as the Ice Age intensified.

Maximum, when the ice caps
were at their maximum extent,
people living in more northerly
and mountainous areas retreated
to “refuge” areas such as—in
Europe—northern Spain and
southwest France, where this
period is known as the “Solutrean.”
Globally, many groups probably
died out, but some held on in
more sheltered regions. To survive
the harsh conditions, much time
and effort was invested in hunting.
Weapons include beautifully
worked points known as “leafpoints.” Although little evidence
survives beyond finely worked
bone needles, people probably
developed sophisticated clothing
to keep them warm. Perhaps
more importantly, hunters
would have worked hard to
predict and intercept the
movements of herds of large
animals, ensuring the
hunting success that was
the difference between life
and death.

“Venus” statuette
This figurine
from Willendorf,
Austria depicts
a stylized pregnant
or obese female
figure.

Modern human sites

Neanderthal and human ranges
Modern humans and Neanderthals
coexisted for several thousand
years. Sites appear to show evidence
of interaction between the groups.

ve
ca
et
v
au e
Ch anc
A
0 Y s, Fr
0
g
,0
32 intin
pa

t
es
ng s
ou site
Y
YA
YA hal
t
00 re
00
,0 der
1,0 ultu
2
28 ean
–
c
28 ian
nN
t
ow
et
v
n
a
k
Gr

exaggerated
belly

he
ian
ft
len r
e o mo n,
t
a
a
a
o
D l H ime
gd pe
A
Ma ap
0 Y rsia spec
0
YA ies
,0 ve s
00 log
18 ntro ensi it”
,0
18 chno
co resi obb
te
flo e h
“th

YA

r
re
00
,0 ex the
27 mpl -ga e
Co nter n th ains
l
hu es o n p
sit ssia
Ru

YA

00 an
,0
21 lutre ies
So olog ear
hn app
tec

st
La m
YA
u
0
m
0
,0 axi
18 l m
–
21 acia
gl

wn
no
t k from e
s
,
e
er anc
rli
Ea hrow , Fr
YA
t
re
00 ear- nie
,0
u
17 r sp Sa
, o be
atl m
atl Co

IN EUROPE, SOPHISTICATED BONE

and antler points, needles, and
harpoons characterize the
“Magdalenian” technologies that
were used to hunt a wide range of
species, especially reindeer.
The Magdalenian (18,000–
12,000 YA) is famous for its
beautiful art objects, engravings,
and cave paintings. There are many
theories about what these mean
and why they were produced. As
most depict animals that were
hunted, the paintings may
represent a magical means of
ensuring hunting success, or
show information about the best
ways to hunt different species.
Paintings of imaginary half-human,
half-animal creatures and the
inaccessibility of some cave art
suggest that painting may have
been a magical or ritual activity,
perhaps practiced by shamans
or during initiation or religious
ceremonies. Alternatively, paintings

and art objects may have helped
establish group identities and
territories, as the number of
archaeological sites in this period
suggests that populations were
growing, and competition for rich
and localized resources may have
been intensifying.
A rise in temperature led to the
retreat of the ice sheets that had
covered northern Europe, and
these areas were rapidly
recolonized, with groups
expanding as far north as Siberia
by around 14,000–13,000 YA. Some
groups later moved on into Alaska
and the Americas. Farther east, in
China and in the Jomon culture of
Japan, some of the first pots
manufactured from clay appeared
between 18,000 and 15,000 YA.
Altamira cave paintings
This Paleolithic cave painting
of bison was discovered at the
Altamira cave site in Spain.

YA

00 of of
,0
15 ing tion ern d
–
ve
ca
16 ginn niza rth one tic
ux
Be colo of no and lima
a
sc e
re eas e ab st c
La anc
YA
ar rop wor
Fr
0
,
0
u
s
g
E rin ions
7,0 ting
t
u
1
i
d nd
in
pa
co

st
lie
ar dog
E
YA
ed
00 at
,0 stic
4
e
1 m
do

,
ile
Ch th
e, e wi s
d
er sit date
eV n
nt rica arly
o
e
M m ly e
YA
A al
00 uth ersi
0
,
o
15 a S trov
n
co

17

10,000–3000 BCE

Megalithic (large stone) architecture was used for monumental tombs in Neolithic Europe. Developments around
3300 CE included the construction of stone circles, such as this example at Castlerigg in northern England.
67006400 BCE
75006700 BCE
85007500 BCE
96008500 BCE
13,0009600 BCE

Population density
The population in western Asia grew
rapidly from 13,000 to 6400 BCE.
AS STEEPLY RISING TEMPERATURES

between 12,700 and 10,800 BCE
melted the northern ice sheets,
global sea levels rose, lakes
formed, and rainfall increased,
promoting the
spread of forests
and grasslands
and providing new
opportunities for
hunter-gatherer
communities.
Coastal areas
drowned by rising sea levels were
rich sources of aquatic foods, as
were lakes and rivers. Grasslands
sustained large herds of animals,
while forest margins provided
abundant plant foods and game.
Most hunter-gatherers moved
seasonally to exploit the
resources of different areas, but
particularly favored places such
as river estuaries could support
people year round. One such
region was coastal Peru and Chile,
where the cold Humboldt current
provides especially rich fisheries.

pid
Ra
ing
0
he us
00 of t ple
9
o
n e
–
00 tio p s
,5 za by ol
11 loni cas e to
i
co er ston
Am ovis
Cl
E
BC

18

er
ng y
ou abl
Y
E
ob ce
BC
pr ing i in
00 d,
96 erio melt rise CE
–
00 ld p by apid 00 B
,8
6
d
10 s co use ery r er 9
a
y
ca s; v aft
r
D
s
t
ee re
sh ratu
pe
tem

Settled communities lived here
by 7000 BCE, including the
Chinchorro, who created
the world’s first mummies
(see panel, opposite).
Another area with
favorable conditions
was West Asia. Here,
vegetation included wild
cereals that could be
stored, sustaining
communities throughout the
year when
supplemented
by other wild
foods such as
gazelle. A period
of cold, arid
conditions from
10,800 to 9600 BCE
led to a steep

productivity. Farming was
therefore a choice that people
made, increasing local
productivity, often at the cost of
increasing work and risk. Their
reasons for farming may have
included extending their period of
residence in a settled village,
providing extra food for feasting or
to support a growing population,
and boosting the supply of
preferred or declining foodstuffs.
Cereals were common staples of
early agriculture. Wheat and barley
were domesticated in West Asia,
spreading into North Africa,
Europe, and Central and South
Asia. Broomcorn and foxtail millet

decline in the availability of wild
cereals. This prompted some
West Asian villagers to turn to
cultivation, planting cereals.
Agriculture began in many
parts of the world at different
times, using local resources.
Domesticated plants and animals
spread by trade between
neighboring groups and when
farming communities colonized
new areas. Agriculture was not a
discovery: hunter-gatherers had a
deep knowledge of the plants and
animals on which they depended,
and often took actions to increase

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only the Andes had animals
suitable for domestication:
guineapigs, llamas, and alpacas.
Birds, particularly chickens,
ducks, and turkeys, were also kept

bone and antler
lightened by
scraping

Star Carr deer cap
This skull cap from a huntergatherer site in England may have
been used in hunting rituals.

n

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Lepinski Vir "fish god"
Abundant fish supported a settled
hunter-gatherer village on the
Danube in Serbia. Its inhabitants
carved fish-human sculptures,
probably representing gods.

holes bored
into skull

i
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were domesticated in the Yellow
River valley and rice in the Yangzi
valley in China, from where they
spread through East and Southeast
Asia. In Africa, other millets and
African rice were domesticated
after 3000 BCE. In the Americas,
corn was the principal cereal.
However, although it was cultivated
by 6000 BCE, it was not until
2000 BCE that corn was sufficiently
productive to support permanently
settled villages. Legumes and
vegetables were grown alongside
cereals in many parts of the world.
Tubers, such as manioc and
yams, and treecrops were
cultivated in moist tropical
regions, beginning at an early date
in the New Guinea highlands and
the rainforests of Central America
and northern South America.
Domestic sheep, goats, pigs,
and cattle were raised across
Eurasia and Africa, initially just for
meat. However, in the Americas

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,,

THE NEOLITHIC WAS… A POINT
IN A CONTINUOUS STORY OF
GREATER ECONOMIC CONTROL
OVER RESOURCES... FROM
SCAVENGING TO... FARMING.

by Old and New World farmers. By
5000 BCE cattle, sheep, and goats
were raised for milk as well as
meat, while cattle were used to
pull plows, enabling people to
cultivate much larger areas.
Wool-bearing sheep were bred in
West Asia in the 4th millennium
BCE, and rapidly spread into
Europe and Central Asia. The use
of pack animals such as llamas
and donkeys allowed longdistance transport.
Agriculture was more productive
than foraging and could support
larger communities. Settled life
also encouraged population
growth. Many early farming
villages in West Asia grew to
a considerable size. Most
remarkable was Çatalhöyük in
Turkey, occupied around 7400–
6200 BCE, which housed as many
as 8,000 people. Its tightly packed
houses were entered from the
roof by ladders, and were
decorated with paintings and

,,

Clive Gamble, from Origins and revolutions: human identity in earliest
prehistory, 2007

modeled animal heads.
After 7000 BCE farmers spread
from Turkey into southeast
and central Europe, while
Mediterranean hunter-gatherers
gradually turned to agriculture,
using imported West Asian crops
and animals. By 3500 BCE most of
Europe had adopted farming.
Megaliths—stone chambered
tombs of which a wide variety were
built, often with earthen mounds—
were constructed in western and
northern Europe from the early 5th
millennium BCE. Most housed the
bones of a number of individuals.

ASIA
NORTH
AMERICA

EUROPE

2500 BCE
4500 BCE

9000 BCE

8000 BCE

7000 BCE

7000 BCE 8000 BCE
9000 BCE
6500 BCE 6000 BCE
6500 BCE

2500 BCE

6000 BCE
7000 BCE
6000 BCE
5000 BCE

4000 BCE

AFRICA

SOUTH
AMERICA

7000 BCE

AUSTRALASIA

KEY
Livestock

Other

Cereals

Areas with agriculture

The spread of agriculture
Humans began to cultivate plants and manage animals independently,
in different areas at different times, across the world.

in
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62 mm ates ia
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tic
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lop nte o
00 ve osi xic
60 n de d te Me
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CE

Native (naturally occurring pure)
copper and gold were being
shaped into small objects by cold
hammering before 8000 BCE in
West Asia. Around 7000 BCE, ores
were smelted here to extract
metal and by 6000 BCE copper and
lead were also cast. Metals were
initially made into small personal
objects that could enhance
prestige and status. Later,
however, copper began to be used
for tools, and by 4200 BCE copper
ores containing arsenic were
deliberately selected to produce a
harder metal. The addition of tin
created a stronger alloy, bronze,
which was in use in West Asia
by 3200 BCE.
The development of watercontrol techniques enabled West
Asian farmers to colonize the
southern Mesopotamian plains,
where agriculture depended
entirely on irrigation but was
highly productive. By the mid 4th
millennium BCE, this region was
densely populated, and villages
were developing into towns, with
craft specialists. There was a
growing demand for raw
materials, including metal
ores, which often came from
distant sources. A trading

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CE

CHINCHORRO MUMMIES
The earliest mummies come
not from Egypt, but from
coastal northern Chile, an
arid region where natural
mummies occur from
7000 BCE. After 5000 BCE the
Chinchorro began artificial
mummification. They removed
the flesh, reassembled and
reinforced the skeleton, stuffed
the skin with plant material,
coated it in clay, and painted
it with black manganese or
red ocher. Only some
individuals, particularly
children, were mummified.

network developed that
stretched from Egypt through
West Asia to the mountainous
borderlands of South Asia, with
towns controlling sources of
materials and strategic points
along the routes. Sumer
(southern Mesopotamia) was at
the forefront of this development,
but social, religious, economic,
and political complexity was also

emerging in Elam (southwest
Iran) and Egypt. Before 3000 BCE
all three regions developed
writing systems, used to
record and manage economic
transactions and the ownership
of property. The earliest known
pictographic writing, around
3300 BCE, comes from Uruk in
Sumer, a huge and complex
settlement that is deservedly
known as the world’s first city.

Copper ax heads
Gold and copper were the
first metals to be worked.
They became widespread
in Europe around
2500 BCE.

ice ed,
t-r ow in
We in pl elds
E
BC
n yfi
00 tio dd
40 ltiva d pa ns
i
cu ode beg
flo ina
Ch

ls t
ea es
p s in W e
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or
40 cati nd
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Do of v eas ean
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W s ra cal urp
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E
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ipt in
BC
cr rit
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9
A he
–2 m
00 Ela ze s t
31 oto- Bron ros
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Pr rly ) a teau
(ea stem pla
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Ira

ing
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BC
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llu a
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CE
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19

8

MYA –3 0 0 0 BCE

colorful
geometric
design

HUMAN ORIGINS

minerals define
facial features

hole for
cord

reed
framework
coated in
thick plaster

geometric,
abstract
pattern

finely detailed
engraving

Pottery shard

Human figurine

Schist plaque

Engraved bone

4000 BCE • ROMANIA
Different cultures can be identified
by their unique ways of decorating
objects—this shard is typical of the
Cucuteni-Tripolye culture.

6750–6500 BCE • JORDAN
This large statue from Ain Ghazal
is one of several from sites in
the Near East that may have
represented ancestors or gods.

4000 BCE • PORTUGAL
It is unclear what Neolithic engraved
plaques, like this one from Alentejo,
symbolized, but they seem to have
been made for burial with the dead.

13,000–8000 BCE • FRANCE
Paleolithic artists often carved as well
as painted their depictions of animals,
as with this scene of a bison being
chased, from Laugerie-Basse.

PREHISTORIC PEOPLES
EARLY HUMANS ARE DEFINED BY THE RAW MATERIALS THEY USED TO FASHION TOOLS, WEAPONS, AND ORNAMENTS

Prehistory is traditionally divided into the Stone, Bronze,
and Iron ages, but many other kinds of raw materials
such as wood, hide, and plant fibers were also used in
early technologies. Little evidence of these survives.

carefully
sharpened tip

leather or
sinew binding

In addition to being functional aids to survival and subsistence, the objects
made by prehistoric peoples would also have been important in their social
lives. Different groups develop their own ways of manufacturing and
decorating objects, and distinctive designs may become badges of identity
or status symbols. The trade and exchange of objects is another vital way in
which individuals and groups establish social relationships and hierarchies.
scars where
blades chipped
from core

carved antler
setting

flint head
set into
wooden
sleeve

long, thin
blade

remains of
flaked cobble
reproduced
wooden handle

Oldowan tool

Blades and core

2.6–1.7 MYA • AFRICA
The earliest stone tools were
simple, sharp-edged flakes of
stone, made by striking a stone
cobble with a hard “hammerstone.”

100,000 BCE ONWARDS • WIDESPREAD
Early modern humans produced uniform,
narrow blades that would have been fitted
to wooden and antler handles or held in the
hand, as tools for many different purposes.
thick base is
easy to hold

Antler harpoon
8000 BCE • UK
This harpoon head is attached to a long
handle for spearing fish—a key source of food
when sea levels rose as the last Ice Age ended.

20

barbed head made
from antler

Flint hand-ax

Digging tools with adze heads

200,000 BCE • UK
Hand-axes, such as this one from
Swanscombe, were skillfully made
and used for a wide range of activities,
including woodworking and butchery.

11,660–4000 BCE • EUROPE
These Mesolithic adzes were used
for digging up edible roots or cutting
wood in the forests that spread across
Europe after the last Ice Age ended.

P R E H I S TO R I C P E O P L E S

Clay burial chest
4000 BCE • NEAR EAST
One Chalcolithic (“copper age”)
burial practice involved leaving
the dead out to decay, then
collecting the bones and placing
them in clay chests like this one.

excavation
damage

Carved spear-thrower
10,500 BCE • FRANCE
Spear-throwers, such as this one from
Montastruc, were often carved into animal
shapes—here, a woolly mammoth made
from antler. They enabled hunters to throw
spears farther and with greater force.

exaggerated
features

Lespugue Venus

Neolithic flint blade
set in reproduction
handle

24,000–22,000 BCE • FRANCE
This ivory figurine from Lespugue in
the Pyrenees is one of many “Venus”
figurines—depicting women who are
pregnant or obese, or whose female
features are greatly exaggerated.

Mummified head
7000–3000 BCE • PERU
In very dry climates, bodies can
become mummified. Some of
the earliest mummies have
been found in Peruvian deserts.

Bronze Age
sickle

Gold jewelry

gold easily worked
into decorative
animal shapes

4700–4200 BCE • BULGARIA
At the cemetery of Varna in
Bulgaria, more than 3,000
pieces of some of the earliest
gold jewelry have been found,
mainly buried with elite males.

loom
weight
bone
shuttle
soft clay was baked
to preserve design

iron sickle blade

Neolithic seal
Agricultural tools
9500 BCE–1834 CE • WIDESPREAD
First wild and later domesticated
cereals were harvested using
sickles like these, until they were
superseded in most places by the
invention of the combine harvester.

7500–5700 BCE • ANATOLIA
Seals such as this one
from the settlement of
Çatal Höyük were used
during the Neolithic to
stamp decorative designs
on to skin or cloth.

Cloth-making tools
6500 BCE • ORIGIN UNKNOWN
From the mid-Neolithic, weaving
became common. Loom weights
held vertical threads taut; bone
shuttles were used to weave
horizontal threads in and out.

21

2

EARLY
CIVILIZATIONS
3000–700 BCE
This period saw the emergence of complex civilizations.
Communities flourished and trade developed in the fertile
valleys of Egypt, India, western Asia, and China. Europe and
Central and South America also flourished during this time.

3000–2700 BCE

Stonehenge in western Britain was a ceremonial site from around 3100 BCE . An early earth enclosure
and a circle of wooden posts were later replaced by the outer circle of stones seen here.

50

DURING THE LAST HALF OF THE
FOURTH MILLENNIUM BCE, the

r
au

us

M

o

t
un

ain

smiths began manufacturing
bronze. The plow had been in
use since about 5000 BCE, wheeled
carts from around 3500 BCE, and
such advances made farming
more productive. The resulting
food surplus freed some people
from the farming life, allowing
specialization into professions
such as priesthood, crafts, trade,
and administration. The world’s
first tiered society developed,
headed by kings sometimes
known as lugals.
In Egypt, one of the world’s most
complex ancient civilizations
was forming along the banks of
the Nile River by 3100 BCE. The
Nile formed a narrow strip of
cultivatable land, floodplain, as the

s

M

es

op

Zagr

ota

m i a Nippur

E lam

Uruk

t
di

os M
o

un

t ai

Ur

Persian
Gulf

Eridu

Arabian Peninsula

Ancient cities of Mesopotamia
Sumer in southern Mesopotamia was the
location of the world’s first urban civilization
from c. 2900 BCE as agricultural success
led to a complex society.

KEY
Extent of Early Dynastic
city-states
Ancient coastline

CE

E

d—
00 io
26 per nal lley
–
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Va
00 us gi
32 nd re us
c. rly I and Ind
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e
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BC

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30 A
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o
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Br derw As –
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C
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12
c.

24

ns

Umma
Kish
Shuruppak Lagash

Syrian
Desert

e
Se rra
a ne

Me

THE POPULATION
OF THE CITY OF
URUK c. 2800 BCE

Tigris

s

Euphrate

an

T

world’s first civilizations arose,
first in Western Asia, then North
Africa and South Asia. Civilization
also appeared in China in the
early second millennium BCE. By
3000 BCE, the world’s first urban
culture had begun to develop in
southern Mesopotamia, in what
is now Iraq. The lower Euphrates
river plains had been farmed
from c. 6200 BCE, after the
development of irrigation
systems—the Greek word
mesopotamia means “land
between the rivers.” By 3500 BCE,
farming communities were
growing into towns and then
cities such as Ur, Uruk, and
Eridu. Over the next 300 years,
each city came to dominate its
surrounding area, forming a
group of city-states in the land
called Sumer in southeast
Mesopotamia.
Metalworking had begun in
Mesopotamia around 6000 BCE.
Around 3200 BCE, Sumerian

THOUSAND

river’s annual flood (known as the
inundation) spread black silt along
its banks. The Egyptian farming
year began in the fall when the
inundation subsided, and farmers
cultivated wheat, barley, beans,
and lentils in the fertile soil.
By the end of the 4th
millennium BCE, farming
communities had evolved into
two kingdoms: Upper Egypt in
the south and Lower Egypt in
the north. King Narmer united
the two kingdoms c. 3100 BCE.
After Narmer came Menes,
although historians are
unsure whether Menes
was Narmer’s successor
or a different name for
Narmer himself. Menes
is credited with founding
the Egyptian capital at
Memphis and Egypt’s
first dynasty.
As in Mesopotamia,
efficient agriculture
produced prosperity and
specialism, allowing arts,
crafts, engineering, and
early medicine to develop.

The Early Dynastic Period
(c. 3100–2686 BCE) was already
characterized by many of the
celebrated aspects of Egyptian
culture: hieroglyphic writing, a
sophisticated religion (including
belief in an afterlife), and
preserving the dead using
mummification. A complex
hierarchical society developed,
with the king at the apex
accorded semi-divine status.
Egyptian kings—later known as
pharaohs—ruled with the help of
a chief minister, or vizier, regional
governors (nomarchs), and a
huge staff of lesser officials
including priests, tax collectors,
and scribes.
In China, civilization originated
in the valleys of eastern rivers
such as the Huang He (Yellow
River), where the rich loess soil

Narmer Palette
This carved piece of green siltstone
records the triumph of the legendary
King Narmer of Upper Egypt over
his enemies.

s
re
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CE
Me Egy ther t
0 B n cu Ch CE)
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c. ngs ping 300
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BC

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00 w
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0
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BC
ili
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made the land fertile. As early
as 8000 BCE, millet had been
cultivated in the area around
Yangshao in Henan Province.
Around c. 2400 BCE, the
neighboring Dawenkou culture
developed into the Longshan
culture of Shangdong Province.
Longshan farmers grew rice
after developing irrigation
systems. As in other early
civilizations, agricultural success
allowed the development of an
elaborate society. Chinese
craftsmen were making bronze
tools c. 3000 BCE, jade vessels
c. 2700 BCE, and silk weaving had
begun by 3500 BCE.
The Bronze Age was underway
in western Asia by 3000 BCE, and
possibly considerably earlier. The
Bronze Age in Europe seems to
have developed separately from
around 2500 BCE, using ore
sources from the Carpathian
Mountains in Central Europe.
This era also saw the
beginnings of the Minoan
civilization on the Greek
island of Crete around
2000 BCE, with trading links
to the nearby Cyclades
Islands and the wider
Mediterranean. In Western
Europe, the earlier tradition of
megalithic tomb building and a
growing interest in astronomical
observation gave rise to a new
megalithic tradition of erecting
stone circles, stone rows,
standing stones, and tombs
including astronomical features.
These include Newgrange in
Ireland, Stonehenge in England,
and Carnac in France.

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2700–2500 BCE

The three pyramids at Giza were built for the pharaohs Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaura between 2575 and 2465 BCE .
They are guarded by the statue of the Sphinx, which may bear the features of King Khafra.

Standard of Ur
This boxlike object has two side
panels—one depicting war, the other
(shown here) times of peace.
SOUTHERN MESOPOTAMIA was
a patchwork of over 40 city-states,
among which Ur, Uruk, Nippur,
and Kish were the most important.
Trade flourished using a network
of rivers and canals, and trade
links extended to Anatolia
(modern-day Turkey), Iran,
and Afghanistan, with grain,
minerals, lumber, tools, and
vessels traded. The Sumerian
population was unique in being
predominantly urban. In Ur,
Uruk, and other centers, people
lived in clustered mud-brick
houses. At the heart of the city, the
ziggurat—a terraced temple

mound—provided the focus for
religious ceremonies, and grain
was kept in storerooms within the
temple precincts. From around
2500 BCE, some citizens of Ur were
buried in tombs along with
treasures such as the Standard
of Ur. The purpose of its intricate

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side panels is still a mystery; they
may have formed the soundbox
of a lyre.
Arising from the need to keep
economic and administrative
records, the first pictographic
writing developed in Sumer
(c. 3300 BCE). Pictographs (pictorial
writing representing a word or
phrase) evolved into a script called
cuneiform c. 2900 BCE, in which
scribes pressed sharpened
reeds into soft clay to leave
wedge-shaped impressions.
Southern Mesopotamia
became densely populated,
putting pressure on natural
Cuneiform tablet
Over time, the inventory of signs
regularly used in cuneiform script
was greatly reduced.

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BC

THE NUMBER OF
BLOCKS USED TO
BUILD THE GREAT
PYRAMID OF GIZA

resources. This led to conflicts
over land and water, and alliances
between cities were forged
and broken.
The first signs of civilization in
the Americas appeared along the
coast of Peru and in the Andes
c. 2800 BCE. Andean farmers grew
potatoes and the cereal quinoa,
and raised alpacas and llamas.
There were fishing communities
on the coast, while inland towns
became ceremonial centers,
built around mud-brick temple
platforms. An exceptional example
is Caral, about 125 miles (200 km)
from Lima and dating from
c. 2600 BCE. Another, Aspero, had
six platform mounds topped by
temples. Cotton was grown in the
region, and corn was cultivated
from around 2700 BCE.

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MILLION

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The Indus Valley civilization
began to emerge in South Asia in
the fourth millennium BCE, as flood
control technology developed. By
2600 BCE, the Indus Plain contained
dozens of towns and cities. Of
these, Mohenjo-daro on the
Indus River, and Harappa, to the
northeast, were preeminent, with
populations of around 100,000 and
60,000, respectively.
In Egypt, King Sanakht acceded
to the throne in the year 2686 BCE,
marking the beginning of the Third
dynasty and the Old Kingdom
era—a time of strong, centralized
rule and pyramid-building.
These magnificent monuments
were built as royal tombs. In
Early Dynastic times, kings had
been buried beneath rectangular
mud-brick platforms called
mastabas. Around 2650 BCE, the
first pyramid, the Step Pyramid of
Saqqara, was completed for King
Djoser. Designed by the architect
Imhotep, it resembled six stone
mastabas on top of one another.
Straight-sided pyramids
appeared soon after, the greatest
of which were the three pyramids
at Giza. These incredible feats of
engineering were constructed not
by slaves as was once thought, but
by a staff of full-time craftsmen
and masons supplemented by
farmers performing a type of
national service during the Nile
floods. Enormous blocks of stone
(lower stones of 6–10 tons; higher
ones of 1–2 tons) were cut from
local quarries, hauled on site using
sleds, and then heaved up ramps,
which grew ever higher as
construction progressed.

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2500–2350 BCE

2350–2200 BCE

The ruined citadel of Mohenjo-daro was made up of various buildings. It was
built on a platform to guard against flooding of the Indus River.

Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, England, is one of the tallest man-made chalk mounds
in Europe. These mounds probably had a social or cultural function.

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Dholavira
Lothal
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lf

Ar a b i a n
Sea

Indus civilization
Excavations suggest that the Indus
civilization covered an area far larger than
Mesopotamia and Egypt combined.

such as pottery, bead-making,
and metalworking.
Indus cities and towns had the
most advanced plumbing system
in the ancient world, with enclosed
wells and covered drains. Latrines
emptied waste into drains, which
ran below the streets.
These urban centers were also
connected by extensive trade
links. Merchants
supplied craft
products from
the valleys to

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Harappa
Kalibangan
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one-piece
cart wheel

Ol

la

Ropar

Ir anian
Plateau

Agrarian lives
A clay model of
a bullock cart
found at Mohenjodaro, dating back to
c. 2500–1900 BCE, gives
an insight into farming
life in the Indus
civilization.

CE iod
0 B er pt

ma

Indus

continued to develop in western
Asia, Egypt, and and southern
Asia, and complex societies were
emerging in China, Europe, and
South America.
In southern Asia, the Indus
civilization (see 2700–2500BCE)
emerged in its mature form
around 2500BCE, stretching
1,060 miles (1,700 km) from east
to west and 800 miles (1,300 km)
from north to south. The region’s
prosperity was based on farming,
mining, crafts, and trade. More
than 100 sites have been
excavated, including the cities
of Mohenjo-daro, Harappa,
and Dholovira.
Mohenjo-daro and Harappa
were well-planned cities laid
out on a grid system. Each city
was protected by brick walls
and dominated by a citadel
overlooking a “lower town” of
public buildings and residential
town houses of one or two stories.
The residential areas
were seemingly
divided by industry,

Hi

Shortughai

KEY
Zone of urban civilization
Urban centers
Modern coastline

the surrounding regions in return
for metal ores, precious stones,
and timber. Long-distance trade
routes reached as far as
Mesopotamia and Afghanistan.
By around 2500 BCE, an Indus
script of hundreds of signs
appeared on seals and pottery.
Attempts to decipher the script
have failed; hence, many aspects
of this culture remain a mystery.
In western Asia, Mesopotamia
(see 2700–2500BCE) remained a
patchwork of small but powerful
city-states, each controlling the
surrounding farmlands where
barley, legumes, and date palms
were grown. To the west, citystates were developing in Syria
and the Levant. A trade network
linking Mesopotamian towns
suggests cooperation between
states, but there was frequent
warfare as well.

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A NEW POWER AROSE IN
MESOPOTAMIA c. 2334BCE, King

BRONZE AGE EUROPE

Sargon (c. 2334–2215 BCE) from
the northern region of Akkad
defeated Lugalzagesi of Umma to
become the ruler of Sumer.
Through subsequent campaigns
to the Levant, Syria, and Anatolia,
Sargon carved out the world’s first
empire—the Akkadian Empire—
stretching from the eastern
Mediterranean to the Gulf.
Sargon’s exploits were recorded
in several documents, such as the
Sumerian King List. His name
means “legitimate king,” which
led some scholars to believe that
he took power through force.
Sargon spoke Akkadian, a
Semitic language that replaced
Sumerian as the official
language of the empire.

Bronze-working had begun
in West Asia c. 3200BCE (see
10,000–3000BCE). It was
developed by the Únětice
culture of Bohemia and
Poland c. 2500BCE, and
200 years later had
spread to Italy and the
Balkans. Bronze
provided a hard metal
for forging armor,
weapons, and tools
such as this hand ax.
The bronze industry
also increased trade,
making Europe more
interconnected than
ever before.

,,

IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE 3RD
MILLENNIUM BCE, civilizations

grandson, Naram-Sin, extended
the empire, but it lasted for only
four generations before falling
to attacks. Sargon’s rule
established a practice of
statewide bureaucratic controls
and standardization in many
aspects of economic life.
In Egypt, this period saw a
weakening of the power of the
Old Kingdom rulers (see
2700–2500BCE), in favor of
regional governors called
nomarchs, who administered
different parts of the Nile valley
and delta. To the south of the first
cataract on the Nile, the kingdom
of Nubia also grew more
powerful. Nubia was centered
around the city of Kerma at the
third cataract. By the end of
the Sixth dynasty (c. 2184 BCE),

UNDER HIM

ALL COUNTRIES
LAY [CONTENTED]
IN THEIR
MEADOWS, AND
THE LAND

REJOICED.

,,

Lugalzagesi, king of Sumer,
defeated by Sargon c. 2316 BCE

Akkadian rule was enforced
through regional governors who
collected tributes and taxes. The
empire’s weakness lay in its lack
of defensible borders, and it
came under regular attacks from
neighboring hill tribes. Sargon’s

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2200–2000 BCE

Relief sculptures in Egyptian tombs represented everyday life and religious rituals. This carving from
the Sixth dynasty shows boys with sticks, on the left, and youths wrestling, on the right.

the authority of the Egyptian
rulers had steadily eroded.
In Western Europe, the Bell
Beaker culture flourished.
Named after the distinctive shape
of pottery vessels found in
graves, this culture emerged by
c. 2600 BCE in France, Spain, and
the Netherlands. Over the next
three centuries, it spread to
Germany and Britain. Around
2300 BCE, bronze technology
from Mediterranean regions and
from Central Europe started
to spread northward
along the Rhine and
Danube. The
increasingly
militaristic societies
used bronze to create
weapons, triggering
the appearance of
small chiefdoms
across Europe.
As populations grew,
competition over land
and resources
intensified. Fields were
enclosed, farming
expanded, and boundary
walls built. Imposing
structures such as chalk
mounds were constructed
in many areas.
In South America,
societies continued to
develop in two distinct
regions: the upland valleys
and high plains of the Andes,

and along the Pacific coast and
inland valleys. Andean cultures
were based on farming and
herding. Coastal settlements
such as Aspero (Peru) were
unique in their dependence on
fishing rather than on agriculture.
The coastal people grew cotton for
textiles, and gourds, which were
used as fishing floats.

Akkadian warrior king
This bronze cast of an Akkadian
ruler may depict Sargon I or his
grandson, Naram-Sin, who
extended Sargon’s empire.

ign
Re ixth
t
B
e S gyp
8 4 th
21 II of in E
–
78 py sty
22 f Pe yna
d
o

Empire c. 2150 BCE. Sumerian
states such as Kish, Ur, and
Lagash took the opportunity to
reassert their independence.
For the next 80 years, the
city-states vied for control in
Mesopotamia. In 2112 BCE, Ur
under Ur-Nammu (r. 2112–
2095 BCE) gained ascendancy. The
armies of Ur overran eastern
Mesopotamia and Elam, and
regained much of
Sargon’s empire.
Ur-Nammu founded the
Third dynasty of Ur,
which witnessed a
revival of Sumerian
power, as well as an
artistic and cultural
renaissance. Sumerian
scholars devised a method of
counting, based on units of
60. This system is reflected
in our modern division of
hours into 60 minutes,
minutes into 60 seconds,
and a circle into 360
degrees.
Ur-Nammu also
commissioned the first
ziggurat in Ur—an imposing
stepped platform topped
with a temple. The ziggurats
later became a characteristic
of ancient western Asian
architecture.
In c. 2181 BCE, Egypt’s Old
Kingdom collapsed following
a series of natural disasters,
including famine. This
undermined the authority of
the king, who was believed to
secure the annual floods that

brought fertility to the Nile
valley. The rule of
Memphis, the capital city
of the Old Kingdom, was
overthrown as nomarchs and
nobles seized control of the
provinces. This ushered in a
time of unrest called the First
Intermediate Period, the first
of the three eras of uncertainty
in Egyptian history. For 140
years, kingdoms such as
Herakleopolis in central Egypt
vied for control with Thebes
in the south. In c. 2040 BCE,
the Theban ruler Nebhepetre
Mentuhotep defeated his
rivals and united Egypt once
more, beginning the start of
what came to be known as the
Middle Kingdom.
In China, the Neolithic
Longshan culture (see 3200 BCE)
continued to develop along the
Yellow River in Shandong
province. According to Chinese
historical tradition, the first
dynasty, Xia (Hsia), was founded
by Yu the Great. However, no
archaeological evidence has

100
THOUSAND
THE LIKELY
POPULATION
OF UR c.2100

sty
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Six m p nat rity
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CE

THE MOUNTAIN PEOPLE OF
GUTIUM ATTACKED the Akkadian

ed
nd e
ou u th e
f
sty by Y ines e
na
v
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a
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Longshan pottery
This elegant pottery tripod
pitcher has tapering legs
and swirling patterns,
characteristic of
the Longshan
culture.

been found to confirm the
existence of a centralized state
in China at this time.
By the end of the 3rd millennium,
Europe’s first civilization was
emerging on the Mediterranean
island of Crete, which lay at the
heart of Mediterranean trade
routes. Known as the Minoan
civilization, it grew prosperous
through trade and farming.
Cretan farmlands produced wheat,
olives, wine, and wool, which could
be easily transported by sea. The
Minoans also made bronzework,
pottery, and dyes for export. By
2000 BCE, Crete was home to
several small kingdoms.

p
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27

3 0 0 0 –7 0 0

BCE

E A R LY C I V I L I Z AT I O N S

hieroglyphs
are picture
symbols

hieratic script reads
from right to left

28

papyrus, made
by pressing
together layers
of strips of reed

illustration shows a
priest making an offering
to the god Osiris

Egyptian hieroglyphic and hieratic script
This ancient Egyptian papyrus manuscript shows two forms of
Egyptian writing: hieratic script (left) and hieroglyphic script
(right) above the two figures. Hieroglyphic is an elaborate script
in which signs take a highly pictorial form, while hieratic is a
simplified version of hieroglyphic for ease of speed and writing.

Prehistory
Pictograms

c. 3200 BCE
Egyptian hieroglyphs

8th century BCE
The Greek alphabet

100
The Roman alphabet

Pictures painted on walls
of caves up to 25,000
years ago are considered
a precursor to writing,
recording information
that could then be
Cave images by Anasazi Indians
understood by others.

Egyptian writing develops
100 years after cuneiform.
This script begins as a form
of picture writing, and
includes signs for words and
also sounds. It remains in
use until the 4th century CE.

The first alphabets, using
only consonants, develop
in the Levant by c. 1150 BCE.
They include the Phoenician
alphabet, which spreads to
the Greeks through trade,
who add vowels.

The Romans adapt the
Greek script to write Latin.
Through the Roman Empire,
this alphabet spreads across
Europe and is used for
personal as well as official
correspondence.

Greek wax tablet

3300 BCE
Cuneiform

c. 1900 BCE
Chinese writing

c. 6th century BCE
Parchment

The first true written
script is developed by the
Sumerians of Mesopotamia.
Writing with a reed stylus
creates a wedge-shaped
impression on tablets of wet
clay, which then dry hard.

The first surviving Chinese
writing appears on oracle
bones, used in divination.
This ancient script is still
in use today. Chinese script
involves 50,000 characters
that stand for words.

Made from dried and
processed animal skins,
parchment becomes a
popular medium for writing
around the 6th century BCE,
taking over from papyrus, a
paper made from reeds.

Mesopotamian tablet

Chinese paper scroll

Chinese
parchment scroll

T H E S TO R Y O F W R I T I N G

THE STORY OF

WRITING

FROM CAVE PAINTINGS TO THE DIGITAL AGE, WRITING IN ITS VARIOUS FORMS HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN IMPORTANT PART OF OUR CIVILIZATION

The development of writing was an amazing breakthrough, as it allowed
people to communicate over distance and record information for posterity.
Writing evolved separately in different cultures: in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and
the Indus Valley before 2500 BCE and later in Crete, China, and Mesoamerica.
Some scholars think that prehistoric cave paintings
featuring images and symbols constitute a form of
writing. The first true script was developed by the
Sumerians of Mesopotamia (now Iraq) around
3300 BCE. Soon, a number of different ancient
cultures had developed writing, usually to keep
economic records or keep track of time. As writing
developed, it was commonly used to reinforce the
authority of rulers. Many early texts, including
monumental ones in stone, glorify the deeds of
kings and attribute their success to divine approval.

Writing systems can be divided into three types,
according to the function of the signs used:
logographic, syllabic, and alphabetic. However,
some scripts make use of two types of signs. In
logographic scripts, each sign stands for a whole
word; Chinese writing is an example, although it
also uses syllabic signs. The drawback is that a very
large number of symbols are needed (Chinese has
50,000 characters). In syllabic scripts, signs stand
for syllables. A smaller but still large number of
signs are needed—700 in Babylonian cuneiform.
In alphabetic scripts, each sign stands for a sound.
Far fewer symbols are needed—usually around 26.
The first alphabets developed in the Levant between
1450 and 1150 BCE. For years, the spread of writing
was limited by the labor involved in hand-copying
texts, but this changed with the invention of
printing. In the late 20th century, writing became
electronic with the invention of word processors.
In the 1990s, the spread of information was again
revolutionized by the arrival of the Internet.
Ancient texts in the digital world
Nowadays, ancient texts can be viewed digitally.
Here, a student examines a digitized page of the Codex
Sinaiticus, handwritten in Greek over 1,600 years ago.

Roman mosaic

Modern sign

PICTOGRAPHIC SYMBOLS
Pictograms, or picture signs, are an ancient form
of communication. Some scholars do not consider
pictograms to be “true” writing, since the symbols
do not convey the sounds of words in any language.
For example, the pictures above—from a house
in Roman Pompeii dating to 79 CE, and a modern
sign—convey the same warning. The symbol
can be read in any language—for instance, as
canis, chien, Hund, or dog. Those words convey
the same idea but reproduce the sounds of different
languages—Latin, French, German, and English.
Pictograms have limited use but remain
widespread, appearing, for example, on street
signs, maps, and clothes labels.

7th century
Arabic script

c. 1450
Invention of printing

1884
The fountain pen

1990–present
Text messaging

The Arabic alphabet is
used to write down the
Qur’an, the holy book
of Islam. Its use spreads
with the Islamic faith to
become one of the world’s
most widely used scripts.

In medieval times, the laboriousness
of copying by hand limits the
spread of writing. The invention
of printing using movable type
makes writing far more accessible.
In 1500, an estimated 35,000 texts
are in print.

The first practical fountain
pen is produced by American
inventor L. E. Waterman,
and quickly replaces the
quill pen. Ballpoints,
invented by László Bíró,
Waterman
are in use by the 1940s.
fountain pen

In the 1990s, the first text
messages are sent via mobile
phones. Texting becomes very
popular in the 2000s. In 2009,
more than 1.5 trillion
text messages
Smartphone
are sent.

Medieval
Qur’an

4th century
The codex

7th–9th centuries
Illuminated manuscripts

1867–1868
The typewriter

1965
Writing enters the digital age

The codex, or manuscript
in book form, gradually
supersedes the roll of
parchment. Originally
developed by the Romans,
the use of codices spreads
with the Christian religion.

In early medieval times, the
use of writing spreads through
the copying of Christian texts.
Illuminated manuscripts are
highly decorative, with ornate
capital letters and marginal
illustrations.

American inventor Christopher
Latham Sholes helps to build
the first practical typewriter.
The patent is sold to
Remington, which puts
the first typewriters
The Remington
on sale in 1874.
Model I

In the mid-1960s, the first
electronic messages (emails)
are sent from one computer to
another. Emails become popular
with the spread of personal
computers in the 1980s.

Book of Durrow

29

1850–1790BCE

2000–1850 BCE

Egyptian hieroglyphics involved the use of pictorial signs. This example
is from a coffin from the Middle Kingdom period.
THE MINOAN CIVILIZATION, named

after the legendary King Minos,
flourished on the Aegean island
of Crete in the early 2nd
millennium, reaching its peak
between 2000 and 1600 BCE. It is
thought that Crete’s prosperity
was based on the export of
pottery, gold, and bronze, as well
as possibly grain, wine, and oil,
to Egypt, Cyprus, and Palestine.
The Minoans established colonies
in many parts of the Aegean,
including the islands of Kythera,
Thera, Melos, and Rhodes, and at
Miletos on the Turkish mainland.
The farmlands of Crete were
ruled from cities with central
palaces that housed workshops,

the administration, religious
facilities, and state storerooms.
Those at Knossos, Phaestos,
Mallia, and Zakros were
particularly impressive, judging by
their remains. Around 1700 BCE,
these palaces were burned down,
and only Knossos was rebuilt, on
a more magnificent scale than
before, suggesting its dominance
over the entire island. The palace
was five stories high, with rooms
opening onto inner courtyards.
This mazelike complex is thought
to have given rise to the labyrinth
in the legend of the Minotaur, a
bull-headed monster.
Bulls certainly featured in
Minoan ceremonies. The deities

worshipped in Minoan shrines
seem to have been female, with
a goddess of nature being the
most popular. However, details of
Minoan culture remain obscure,
since the Minoan scripts, known as
Cretan hieroglyphic and Linear A,
have yet to be deciphered.
In Egypt, King Mentuhotep
had reunited the country at the
end of the 3rd millennium (see
2350–2000 BCE). Yet the second of
Egypt’s eras of strong, centralized
rule only began with the reign of
Amenemhet I, from about
1985 BCE, during the Middle
Kingdom. In 1965 BCE, his
successor Senwosret I conquered
the land of Nubia to the south,

40
THE NUMBER
OF DAYS IT
TOOK TO
MUMMIFY
A BODY

extending Egypt’s borders as far
as the second cataract of the Nile.
Nubia yielded gold, copper, and
slaves to swell the ranks of
Egypt’s army. Around a century
later, Senwosret III also made
Levant a vassal state of Egypt.
Middle-Kingdom Egypt was
more democratic than it was
during the Old Kingdom period.
Rulers presented themselves as
shepherds of the state rather than
absolute monarchs. The process
of mummification, once confined
to kings, was now permitted for
ordinary citizens. In order to
preserve it as a permanent home
for the spirit, the body was dried
in natron salt, its vital organs were
removed, and it was stuffed with
linen and wrapped in bandages.
Charging bull
Minoan rituals included a bull-leaping
ceremony, in which athletes grasped
the bull’s horns and vaulted over
its back.This Knossos fresco dates
back to c. 1500 BCE.

ty
Ci es rn
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Shang bronze
This bronze plate was found at
Erlitou, and is of the Xia period. It is
inlaid with turquoise mosaic, believed
to represent a dragon’s scales.
IN CHINA, THE SHANG
CIVILIZATION developed along

the Yellow River by 1850 BCE.
According to legend, China’s first
dynasty was the Xia, but current
archaeological evidence points
to Shang as the first dynasty.
At Erlitou in Henan province,
archaeologists have uncovered
a palace complex built on a

20,000
THE NUMBER
OF CLAY
TABLETS SO
FAR FOUND
AT MARI

sh
of
bli ,
ign uers esta mia
e
a
E R onq ia to pot l
c
o
BC
li
81 dad; otam Mes t-En
7
p
1
a
3– hi-A eso pper hub
1
18 ams rn M f U at S
Sh rthe m o ital
no ngdo cap
Ki th its
wi

1790–1650 BCE

,,

A S I A

Area of Shang influence
Yellow River

Bo Hai

g

Taixicun
Xingtai

Xi’ang

Sh

Shang capital
1400–1300 BCE

n

Yellow
S ea

Anyang

Huixian

Shang capital
1300–1027 BCE

Shang capital
1600–1400 BCE

er
Riv
Huai

Henan
Panlongcheng

Ya

Wucheng

Long-distance trade routes linked
coastal towns with communities
in Andean valleys to the east and
beyond. This allowed for the
spread of pottery from Colombia
to Peru by 1800 BCE. Meanwhile,
in North America, crops such
as sunflowers and gourds began
to be cultivated in the east.
In Western Asia, the fall of the
Ur III Empire led to the rise of two
states—Assyria in the north and
Babylon in the southeast—which
were to dominate Mesopotamia
for the next 1,500 years. The first
dynasty of Babylon was established

E a st C h ina S ea

Erlitou

Law Code of Hammurabi, king of Babylon

WHEN THE ASSYRIAN KING
SHAMSHI-ADAD died in 1781 BCE,

Zhengzhou
Luoyang

platform of compressed earth.
They have also unearthed bronze
vessels. Evidence suggests that
many features that were to
characterize Chinese society later,
such as a strong bureaucracy
and the worship of ancestors,
date back to this time.
In southern Asia, the Indus
civilization, which had thrived
during the 3rd millennium (see
2500–2350 BCE), went into a
decline by around 1800 BCE.
Scholars believe that this was
partly caused by the changes in
the regimes of the rivers that
provided water for irrigation.
Cities seem to have been ravaged
by diseases such as cholera and
malaria. Trade with Mesopotamia
also declined. Meanwhile, new
crops such as millet and rice were
introduced. All these factors seem
to have led to a decline in urban
culture, characterized by writing
and a centralized bureaucracy, in
favor of a rural-based culture.
In South America, large-scale
cultivation was taking place along
the Pacific coast by about
1800 BCE. Substantial settlements
such as El Paraíso and Sechin
Alto in Peru were dominated by
massive temple complexes.

a

o
nd

iver

Shang China
The middle course of the Yellow River
was the heartland of the Shang
civilization c. 1800–1100 BCE. From
here, Shang influence, such as
bronze-working, spread elsewhere.

ng
tze
R

Shang city

,,

IF A MAN PUTS OUT THE EYE
OF AN EQUAL, HIS EYE SHALL
BE PUT OUT.

KEY

in c. 1894 BCE. In the north, the city
of Ashur became an important
trading center in the 20th century
BCE. In 1813 BCE, it was taken over
by the Amorite king ShamshiAdad, who carved out a kingdom
in northern Mesopotamia. This
kingdom was a forerunner of the
Greater Assyrian Empire of the
9th century BCE (see 900–800 BCE).
Clay tablets recovered from
Mari in central Mesopotamia hold
records of trade and tributes
levied by Assyria from vassalstates. Writing from this period
included copies of the earliest
surviving work of literature,
The Epic of Gilgamesh.

Sumerian hero
Tablets and stone carvings
from the Old Babylonian
period provide a record of
the Epic of Gilgamesh,
previously passed down
in the oral tradition.

he was succeeded by his son
Ishme-Dagan. During his reign,
Assyria declined, allowing the
state of Babylon to come to the
fore. During the reign of ShamshiAdad, Babylon was probably a
vassal state of Assyria, but as
Assyria declined, King Hammurabi
of Babylon saw his chance to seize
a wider kingdom. From 1760 BCE,
Hammurabi embarked on a series
of conquests, which made
Babylon the region’s foremost
state. Between 1763–1762 BCE,
he defeated Elam to the east and
Larsa, which controlled Sumer, to
the south. In 1757–1755 BCE, King
Hammurabi conquered much of
northern Mesopotamia and took
the city of Eshnunna after
diverting its water supply.
Hammurabi introduced the
Babylonian law code in the region
under his control. Its 282 laws
covered property, family, trade,
and business practices. The Law
Code of Hammurabi is famous
for punitive laws that meted out
punishments in the same
Set in stone
Hammurabi’s code was inscribed on
stone pillars called stele. This stele
shows the god of justice Shamash
(left) dictating laws to the king.
bi
CE ra es
0 B mu lish
5
7 am tab e in
or
–1
r
ef
92 of H n; es mpi
7
n
1 ig ylo
d l cod ire
E
n
Re Bab nian ia a lega emp
of bylo otam es a his
t
Ba sop lgat hou
Me omu oug
r
r
h
p et
us

g
an
Sh gins
E
BC be
00 tion
18
c. iliza a
civ Chin
in

ial
on
m rida
e
r
u
o
Ce a Fl Per
E
BC of L lt in
0
0 ter bui
18
c. cen

measure as the crime committed
(“an eye for an eye”). However, it is
thought that the law code was
more of a moral statement of
principle than an enforced judicial
system. As such, the code bound
the powerful and wealthy as well
as ordinary people; the strong
were exhorted to refrain from
oppressing the weak.

l
na
itio of ng
d
g
i
a
Tr din y K
CE un y b
6 B r fo ast g to
6
17 te fo dyn rdin y
da ang cco stor
Sh ng, a e hi
Ta ines
Ch

ge
ar x
E L ple
C
B
m lto
50 co A u
17 nial chin Per
.
c
o Se in
m
re of ted
ce
c
tru
ns
co

A
ar
ine to
L
E
in
BC es
50 m
17 t co ete
.
c rip Cr
sc e in
us

in
m ;
do rest
g
e
n
Ki un diat )
E
le by
dd orn rme 0 BC
i
M tt
te 154
E
n
p
I
C
.
y
B
Eg cond (to c
25
17
Se riod
c.
f
o Pe
rt
sta

31

3000–700

BCE

E A R LY C I V I L I Z AT I O N S

to Central and
Northern Europe

MYCENAEAN
GREECE
Sardinia

Io nian
Sea

WILUSA
Troy
SEHA
RIVER MASA
LAND

Gla

Orchomenos

Thebes

Apasa MIRA

ARZAWA

Mycenae

Sicily

Miletus
LUKKA

Athens
Pylos
Tiryns

Menelaion

Knossos

Crete

Me

A F R I C A

The importance of trade
Trade was essential to supply societies with the raw
materials and manufactured goods needed for daily life
(such as metals and lumber), for displaying status (such as
fine weaponry), or for embellishing religious monuments
and royal palaces (such as lapis lazuli). Trade also promoted
the spread of knowledge, technology, and ideas.

dite

rran

ean S
ea

TRADE COMMODITIES
gold

timber

glass

silver

grain

faience objects

ivory

turquoise

Hittite Empire

New Kingdom Egypt

copper

ivory objects

murex dye

Mitanni

Arzawa

fine metalwork

perfumed oils

seashells

Assyria

Trade routes c.1350 BCE

fine pottery

olive oil

horses

textiles

wine

weapons

Kassite Babylonia

A

tin

H

Elam

A

Mycenaean Greece

S

KEY

ANCIENT EMPIRES

THE BIRTH OF ADVANCED SOCIETIES

In the 3rd millennium BCE, states emerged in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the
Indus. Urban society was consolidated in Western Asia in the 2nd millennium,
and powerful states vied for control of lands; in contrast, in South Asia, towns
disappeared. Complex societies emerged in China and the Americas.
The exceptional agricultural productivity of the
Nile, Euphrates, Indus (see p.26), and Yellow (see
p.31) river valleys undoubtedly played a part in the
precocious emergence of civilizations in these
regions. So did international trade, which was also
important in the development of the first New
World civilizations. Trade also enabled many
neighboring societies to achieve prosperity:
through time they developed complex cultures

,,

increasingly focused on urban centers, and came
into competition for resources and markets.
High-level diplomacy was essential to the smooth
operation of international trading networks and
to success in inter-state power struggles. Royal
letters found in the Egyptian capital, Akhetaten
(Amarna), provide a fascinating picture of relations
between the 14th-century BCE rulers of the rival
great states of the eastern Mediterranean.

,,

FOR A LONG TIME WE HAVE
HAD GOOD RELATIONS BETWEEN
US KINGS…
Babylonian king Burnaburiash II to Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten,
from the Amarna letters, 14th century BCE

32

R

A

to sub-Saharan Africa

THE WORLD PICTURE
Urbanism and complex societies became more
widespread during the 2nd millennium BCE.
While they shared many features such as
trade, high agricultural productivity, dense
populations, and their managerial needs, urban
societies took many different forms. In the
Americas, large ceremonial complexes with
residential suburbs provided the focus for the
communities of the wider region, strongly
connected by shared religion and trade.
Advanced centers
This map shows
established and
emerging civilizations
in the later 2nd
millennium BCE.
Societies of farmers
and hunter-gatherers
occupied other
regions.

KEY
Chavín

Assyria

Olmec

Hittites

Shang

Mitanni

Mycenaeans

Elam

Egypt
Babylonia

Blac

k S
ea

KASKAS

PALA
Hattusas

UPP

ERL

HITTITE
EMPIRE

AND
URUADRI
(URARTU)

ISUWA

HAPALLA

Sinai

EGYPT
Eastern
Desert

Abydos

A

a

DJ

UPPER
EGYPT

Se

W
ES
DE TER
N
SE
RT

Elephantine
NUBIA

S

SATJU

YAM

A

N
IA
NUB ERT
DES

HA
R A

to Afghanistan

Old Kingdom c. 2686–2181 BCE
Rulers exercised centralized control
and commanded impressive resources,
as shown by the pyramids at Giza.

BABYLONIA
Babylon

Shechem

Memphis

Giza
Saqqara

ME

Gaza

Nile Delta
LOWER

d

Tyre

a ne an Sea

Capital cities

Dur-Kurigalzu

Kumida
Hazor

Sidon

diterr

Re

Labwe

Byblos

Trade routes

ris

Simurru

KEY

Me

Tig

es
at
hr

NA
AT
A
W
S
Carchemish
TA R H U N T A S KIZZ U
Washshukanni
MUKISH
Harran
Nineveh
Alalah
Arbil
Emar MITANNI
Ugarit Aleppo
ASSYRIA
Cyprus Arwad
Eu
NIYA
p
(Alashiya)
Ashur
Tunip
Qatna
Qadesh

Cyprus

le
Ni

KINGDOMS OF ANCIENT EGYPT
The Nile Valley's exceptional agricultural
fertility promoted the early development
of urbanism in Egypt. Settlements clung
to the Nile delta and riverbanks, beyond
which lay arid desert. The great mineral
resources of the flanking desert regions
and Nubia, which included gold, were
important both for domestic use and to
support international trade.

TUMMANNA

SEALAND

ELAM

Susa

Nippur

Jerusalem
Lachish
Sharuhen

Uruk

Ur

Anshan

Memphis

Cyprus

Me

Pe

LOWER

ia

EGYPT

Gu

Itjtawy
Eastern
Desert

capital
c.1985–1650 BCE

Se
a

EGYPT

capital
c.2055–1985 BCE
and c.1650–1550 BCE

S

d

Waset (Thebes)
W
ES
Karnak
DE TERN
SE
UPPER
RT

Re

le

Re
ea
dS

A r abian
Pe n in s u l a

capital
c.1650–1550 BCE

Ni

lf

le
Ni

DILMUN

Thebes

Sinai

Memphis

n

EGYPT

a ne an Sea

Avaris
(Tell el-Dab’a)

Liyan

rs

Akhetaten

diterr

NUBIA
WAWAT

N
IA
NUB ERT
DES

AH
AR
A

KUSH

Middle Kingdom c. 2040–1640 BCE
Decorated tombs record prosperous life
under the stable 12th dynasty, but the
state disintegrated under later rulers.

to Punt

Cyprus

S

i

b

e r

i a

Me

Hattusas
Mycenae

ATLANTIC
OCEAN

Babylon
Memphis

dite rr

an e an Sea

Per-Ramesse (Qantir)

Anyang
Ashur
Susa

LOWER
EGYPT

Xi’ang
Zhengzhou

PACIFIC
OCEAN

Sinai

Memphis
Eastern

Akhetaten (Amarna) Desert

S A H A R A

le
Ni

Se
a

PACIFIC
OCEAN

d

Chavín de
Huántar

Re

W
ES
Waset (Thebes)
DE TER
UPPER
N
SE
RT
EGYPT

San
Lorenzo

NUBIA

ATLANTIC
OCEAN

INDIAN
OCEAN

S

A

HA
R A

N
IA
N UB ERT
S
DE
KUSH

New Kingdom c. 1550–1069 BCE
Egypt reached its greatest power and
prosperity, conquering Nubia and the
Levant, and building several temples.

33

1650–1550 BCE

1550–1400 BCE

Hattusas, the Hittite capital, was founded by Hattusalis I
in 1650 BCE and destroyed in 1180 BCE.

Built over 300 years, the temple complex at Karnak, Egypt, includes the world’s
largest temple, dedicated to Amun-Re, the patron deity of the pharaohs.

AFTER HAMMURABI’S DEATH in

IN c. 1550 BCE, THE THEBAN KING

1750 BCE, the Babylonian Empire
(see 1850–1790 BCE) declined.
At the same time, other powers
were on the rise, such as the
Hurrians of Mitanni in Syria, and
the Hittites of Anatolia in Turkey.
By 1650 BCE, the Hittites had
built an extensive kingdom in
central Anatolia, with its capital
at Hattusas. The Hittites had
developed advanced bronze- and
ironworking skills, and they were
also known to be fierce fighters.
In 1595 BCE, the Hittite king
Mursilis (r. 1620–1590 BCE) raided
Babylon and expande