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First published in Great Britain in 2011 A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from
by Dorling Kindersley Limited the British Library.
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL ISBN: 978 1 4053 6712 7
A Penguin Company Colour reproduction by Alta Images, London
Copyright © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited Printed and bound in China by Hung Hing
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 Discover more at
prior written permission of the copyright owner.


Dr. Fiona Coward Joel Levy R.G. Grant
Research Fellow at Royal Holloway University Writer specializing in history and scientific History writer who has published more than
of London; contributed to DK’s Prehistoric. history; books include Lost Cities and Lost 20 books, including Battle, Soldier, Flight,
Additional text by Dr. Jane McIntosh Histories. and History for DK.


Dr. Jen Green Thomas Cussans Contributor to several books for DK including
Author of over 250 books on a range Author and contributor to The Times History, World War II, and Science; award-
of subjects from history to nature. newspaper; previous titles for DK include winning documentary maker whose films
Additional text by Dr. Jane McIntosh Timelines of World History and History. include Shell Shock and Bomber Command
for the UK’s Channel 4.
Additional text by Frank Ritter
Dr. Carrie Gibson Richard Beatty
Historian and writer; books include The
Empire Stops Here and DK Eyewitness Writer who has contributed to The Guardian
Companion to World History. and Observer newspapers; gained a doctorate
in 18th- and 19th-century history from the
University of Cambridge, UK.
Smithsonian contributors include historians
CONSULTANTS and museum specialists from:
National Air and Space Museum
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space
Dr. Jane McIntosh Dr. David Parrott Museum is one of the world’s most popular
8MYA–700BCE 1450–1749 museums. Its mission is to educate and
Senior Research Associate, Faculty of Asian and Fellow in History and University Lecturer, inspire visitors by preserving and displaying
Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge, UK New College, University of Oxford, UK aeronautical and space flight artifacts.
National Museum of American History
Professor Neville Morley Dr. Michael Broers The Smithsonian’s National Museum of
700BCE–599CE 1750–1913 American History dedicates its collections and
Professor of Ancient History, School of Fellow and Tutor, Lady Margaret Hall, scholarship to inspiring a broader understanding
Humanities, University of Bristol, UK University of Oxford, UK of the American nation and its many peoples.
National Museum of Natural History
Dr. Roger Collins Professor Richard Overy The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural
600–1449 1914–present History is the most visited natural history
Honorary Fellow, School of History, Classics, Professor of History, University of Exeter, UK museum in the world and the most visited
and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, UK museum in the Smithsonian complex.
1 2 3 4
8MYA–3000BCE 3000–700BCE 700BCE–599CE 600–1449

010 HUMAN 022 EARLY 042 THE 106 TRADE &


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 134 The Islamic World
038 Ancient Egypt 144 The Aztecs, Incas,
064 The Story of Money and Maya
074 The Rise of the 154 The Story of Printing
Roman Empire
084 Ancient Rome
096 Classical Trade

5 6 7 8

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 374 The Story of 482 Inventions and
Communication Discoveries
216 The Story of Arms 310 American Civil War
and Armor 388 War in Europe 483 Philosophy and Religion
316 The Qing Dynasty
230 The Rise and Fall of 394 War in the Pacific 485 Culture and Learning
324 The Imperial World
the Ottoman Empire
332 The Story of the Car 402 World War II 488 Disasters
238 The Story of Navigation
412 The Space Race
250 The Story of Agriculture
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 exploration, and commerce. This is
enthusiasm for history focused an exhilarating and comprehensive
on particular dates and events: account of human creativity as
1588 and the defeat of the Spanish much as its destructiveness, of
Armada; the battle of Waterloo in discovery and understanding as
1815; the fall of Constantinople well as natural disasters and
in 1453. Some had personal human folly. Spectacularly
connections: July 1, 1916, when illustrated and succinctly explained,
my grandfather, serving as an key events in history from the first
artilleryman, lost several of his beginnings of agriculture to the
closest friends on the first day most recent astrophysical
of the Somme offensive. discoveries are laid out along what is
From the earliest times, history probably the most comprehensive
was cast as a grand chronicle timeline ever assembled.
of events and actions, the work of No less exciting for me in helping
often larger-than-life protagonists, to compose this book and to choose
and was intended to enthrall and from all facets of human history
capture the imagination in the to build up the timeline, is the
same way as a great novel. But contribution that History Year by Year
during the 20th century, academic makes to an understanding of global
historians grew skeptical about the history. Throughout the book, events,
“history of the event.” Most often discoveries, and achievements
the events were battles, treaties, occurring in Europe and North
and political struggles, a narrative America are set against the equally
that excluded the lives of the momentous and significant events
great majority of men, women, in the Mideast and East Asia, India,
and children. In reaction to this, Africa, or South America and the
historians focused on cultural, Pacific Rim. This is a history that
social, and economic continuities, stimulates awareness of a wider
looking for their evidence in world by placing events from
everyday objects, trading records, across that world side by side
accounts of childhood and old age. and reminding us that progress
The result was certainly a richer and discovery, feats of social
and more diverse account of human organization, and challenges to a
experience, but one that often left political status quo are no monopoly
little sense of change over time. of the Western world, but as likely to
As the present book shows, history originate in India or Egypt as in
constructed on a timeline does not France and Spain.
have to be a narrow account of war The design of this book offers a
and conquest, treaties and treason. unique opportunity to appreciate a
All of these feature here, but so global history of mankind in all its
do the dates of intellectual and facets. I hope that you enjoy reading
technological innovations, the History Year by Year and using it as a
creation of key works of art, crucial reference as much as we enjoyed
shifts in patterns of agriculture, planning and writing it.

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.
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 2 –1.8 MYA 1.8–1.6 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.

and blood proteins suggest that lived in Africa between 4.2 and of those of modern chimpanzees, was unsuccessful and they became Boxgrove
our lineage separated from that 2 MYA. Although they walked on but some australopithecines seem extinct after about 1.2 MYA , while 0.95 MYA Mauer
of the chimpanzees between two legs most of the time, they to have used tools. The earliest their cousins Homo habilis and Steinheim
8 and 6 million years ago (MYA). were rather small and apelike stone tools come from Ethiopia H. rudolfensis survived. These Tautavel 1.2 MYA EUROPE
Only a few fossil specimens date and date to 2.6 MYA , but bones early Homo species were not very Ceprano
to this time: Sahelanthropus with cut marks made by stone different from australopithecines. la Pineta Petralona
tchadensis (7–6 MYA), Orrorin tools have been found associated It was with Homo ergaster (1.8
with Australopithecus afarensis MYA) that our ancestors started Ubeidiya
1.7 MYA

nearby, and date to 3.4 MYA. The to look much more familiar.
australopithecines’ descendants H. ergaster was tall and slender,
followed two distinct modes of and may have been the first MORE THAN
life: members of the genus hominin (a term used to describe 1.8 MYA
THE TIME Paranthropus had huge jaws humans and their ancestors) Bodo
and big teeth for eating tough without much body hair. Their
WHEN vegetable foods; meanwhile, Homo brains were larger than those of

THE FIRST Lake Turkana Koobi Fora

rudolfensis and H. habilis seem to their ancestors, and they lost the
have eaten more protein, using last of their adaptations to Olduvai Gorge
HUMAN tools to get at the protein-rich tree-climbing to become fully
ANCESTOR marrow inside long-bones by adapted to walking and running.
scavenging from carnivore kills.
tugenensis (6.1–5 MYA), and OLDOWAN TOOL NOT LONG AFTER THE
two species of Ardipithecus, APPEARANCE of Homo ergaster,
kadabba (5.8–5.2 MYA) and hominins expanded their range
ramidus (4.4 MYA). While all beyond Africa for the first time.
of these species seem to A species called H. georgicus
have walked on two legs appeared in Dmanisi, Georgia, by
like us, it is not certain 1.7 MYA . Another close relative of
whether any were actual Homo ergaster, Homo erectus,
ancestors of humans. lived in China and Indonesia
Because species are ACHEULEAN TOOL perhaps not long afterward.
constantly evolving, and Some archaeologists believe that
individuals of those species TOOLS earlier groups of hominins may
can vary, it is difficult to tell also have left Africa, as some of
from isolated and often poorly Many animal species use natural objects as tools, but the the skulls from Dmanisi and from
preserved fossils which species manufacture of stone tools is unique to hominins. The earliest are the much later site of Liang Bua
they should be assigned to, or how simply sharp flakes broken off stone cobbles by striking them with in Flores, Indonesia, (currently
these are related to one another. a “hammerstone.” These are known as “Oldowan” tools, after known as Homo floresiensis)
This unusually complete skeleton
However, these fossils do tell us of Australopithecus afarensis, Olduvai Gorge, where they were first found. Later tools, such as resemble those of Homo habilis
a great deal about what the last discovered in Kenya in 1974, was Acheulean handaxes, required more skill. Our manufacture of tools and Homo rudolfensis.
common ancestor we shared named after the Beatles’ song might be one explanation for the evolution of the human brain. Living farther north would have
with chimpanzees was like. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” required a different way of life

no f us ks t
n s
us in ec ar on ,” i, ha
s es
ini zee ro
pu e
ec bra at o still p ith rly m an rli in sia
om pan rge th edat A
it h th ; l o a t l s st A
m oise and ) Ea min ura ,
im ive la n MY a
–2 alop has han ees s tr a t e ed cu oo a
st ne t iopi lie 2MY r mo n” A
ho m E us)
he y p ee
1 us firs ntifi ar e a, 1. cke us b eeth Ho y ma MY
7 M d ch es d Sa ma anz t to
. t r
4 s si er s t z
an e e A l i e o t h E n n 5 – a p t A 1.7 own fro rgic in
an eag s p h Au ren arg imp bs tr
M Y , th
e de
Ea by s a, E
t YA
sto Go 2 . utcr hro ing .6
MY d
an wit
kn sils geo nisi
YA i –2 s be 6M t
“N r an rind aws .9–1 s (“h ted d
lin 6 M ns him ug l
afa ch n ch clim .5 canu to MY
ed Diki
k 2 . own rom fos omo ma
7– ade in/c s tho u 3 i in . 3
3 odu at c n f a
P ge fu g l j 1 bi l i i a a nes
tc min ut ht i m der ally afr min
k ols ia c
ha asso tools d bo (H m D a
m bitu pr nes to hiop hu wer fro org
ho lit, b prig ho b o Et p o i s ne rk
sp lk u h a
sto t-ma Ge
wa cu

cy, n
“ Lu cus YA lea
.2 s 4 . e cu s 6
3. rints YA he 3 1M s
2– o p u t eu r –
–5 ecu y th ”) is 8 M pit e; 1 f A ch pea k a
5.7 ipith sibl f p i tp nic 3.1 tr alo aliv es o t hr firs mo p r
di rdi e, t s a ma step
s o foo lca i in , l rs
r a us, e to Ho uch MY
Ar a, po iant us Ar (“A -lik ly n vo tol ia
s s
Au ensi fem “fi of
a 65 xe y
s e te in i Pa ust pin red MY
re 1. nda ma cant man e
bb ar id du ze ni ht m d in ae an a r d r m u p o b ro ve 8 m
1. er is mo its ha they nifi n hu enc
da a v am mi an efi ig Ho rve at L anz af s an s fo gro ssils r th o
ka nly A. r r a imp ut d upr e T n
ra dis
c s t n d n sig rd i llig
o ch b lks es ash ale age ily” is fo pa be ga a ha rs
pr m ng s er aller er t esto wa inte
wa ryi fam ren t nd nc for
a a
va  af sle
12 A .
1.6–0.35 MYA 350,000–160,000 YA

Stephen Jay Gould, American paleontologist, from I Have Landed: The End of
a Beginning in Natural History, 2002

ACHEULEAN HANDAXES made by While Homo Erectus continued

Homo ergaster and H. erectus were to thrive in Asia, Homo antecessor
produced across most of Africa had appeared as far west as
and Eurasia, and demonstrate the northern Spain and Italy by 1.2 MYA.
ability to learn complex skills Marks on their bones at the site of
1.6–1.3 MYA Zhoukoudian from one another and pass them Atapuerca in Spain suggest they
Hexian down over generations. To make practiced cannibalism. However,
ASIA Nanjing
Lantian Yunxian these tools, knappers had to think these early colonists may not
several steps ahead in order to have thrived in these unfamiliar
select a suitable stone and to landscapes, as very few sites are
prepare and place each strike. known. By 600,000 years ago,
Handaxes were used for a wide a new hominin species, Homo
Narmada range of activities, including heidelbergensis, had spread
1.5–1 MYA butchery, but they might also have much more widely across Europe.
been important for personal or H. heidelbergensis seems to have
group identity, demonstrating been a good hunter, or at least a
their makers’ strength and skill. proficient scavenger. Burying the dead
BY AROUND 350,000 YEARS AGO, Neanderthals often disposed
Sangiran Mojokerto
while Homo erectus continued to of their dead with care. Some
Ngandong Australopithecines Homo heidelbergensis
hold sway over eastern Asia, were buried in graves, as here
28 cubic inches 73 cubic inches at Kebara Cave in Israel, which
Site of fossil finds (461 cubic cm) (1,204 cubic cm) Homo heidelbergensis in Europe dates to 60,000 BCE.
More likely route and Western Asia had evolved into
Less likely route Paranthropines Homo neanderthalensis.
32 cubic inches
(517 cubic cm) Neanderthals were stockier and their throat and voice-box anatomy
Hominins beyond Africa Homo neanderthalensis
stronger than modern humans, suggests that a Neanderthal
Our earliest ancestors evolved in Homo habilis 87 cubic inches
Africa. Possible dispersal routes (1,426 cubic cm) and their brains were as large language may have been limited
Homo rudolfensis
from Africa are shown on this map, 40 cubic inches or even larger, although shaped compared to that of humans, they
with dates referring to the earliest (648 cubic cm) slightly differently. Neanderthals must have communicated in some
fossils known from each region. Homo erectus were almost certainly very fashion, perhaps by combining a
Homo ergaster Homo sapiens accomplished hunters. They were less complex form of vocalization
to life in the African savanna. 59 cubic inches 90 cubic inches also highly skilled at making with expressive miming.
(969 cubic cm) (1,478 cubic cm)
The climate was cooler and stone tools and heavy thrusting

environments were more spears with which they tackled
seasonal, with significant HOMININ BRAIN SIZES even large and dangerous animal
variation in food resources prey, such as horses and bison.
over the course of a year. Humans have a disproportionately large brain for a primate of However, despite burying their
Fewer edible plants meant their size, but archaeologists disagree about how and why this dead—which may have indicated THE NUMBER
that hominins would have had expansion happened. Switching to fatty and calorific foods such ceremonial practices or belief in
to rely more on harder-to-find as bone marrow and meat may have “powered” brain growth, and an afterlife—Neanderthals do not OF YEARS THE
and fiercely competed-for
animal protein for food. They
also demanded more complex tools and effective hunting and
foraging skills. Social skills were also a part of this process, as
seem to have created more than
the most limited art or used any
needed to move over greater increasing group cooperation and pair-bonding were necessary symbols, as all modern humans DOMINATED
distances and work together to
share resources and information
to sustain the longer periods of childhood that infants needed
for their larger brains to develop.
do. Whether or not they spoke in a
similar way to modern humans is
to survive in these regions. also difficult to establish. Although WESTERN ASIA
s ce
ind s na t st e en es
A F tus oa ka Fir denc re vid cor ag
MY ec d t but ur mos ton mo i ffi y E d nt ha
t YA
7 M eng ting
tic rit
1 r e T A
5 – o e da a, t A“
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9 e o ot ne la 3 M epa ak po ise erek be 12
1.6 Hom ava 5 my date a MY 0.7 liabl tro Ben
ag t po .
0 pr o m om c
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wn ce
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ut Ap ans ece n 4 M a E h a in s to t
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0. se
fir ap
0. ood
u 13



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 Buttermilk Creek
tools found in Arabia. They date to before 100,000 years ago. Cactus Hill

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 AT L A N T I C
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 OCEAN

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).

3000 BCE

Philippine Hawaiian Pedra

Islands Islands

2500 BCE
500 BCE –1 CE

500 BCE

Guinea 400–1200 CE
1500 BCE

1400–750 BCE Islands



1250 CE


LATE ARRIVALS Tracking language

The islands of Oceania were some of the last parts of the The spread of languages can
often be tracked to reflect the
globe to be colonized, via the Philippines, by movement of people. This map
Austronesian-speaking early farmers from Taiwan. The shows the spread of Austronesian Monte Verde
more remote northern and eastern islands of Micronesia speakers across Oceania. Earlier
settlers were already present in
and Polynesia remained uninhabited until after 700 CE, some western areas. 15,000–11,000
and New Zealand was populated as late as 1250 CE. YEARS AGO

13,000 YEARS AGO
Bering Straits
Swan Point 14,000 YEARS AGO

Bluefish Caves Ushki Lake

Tuluaq Hill
Tuluaq complex) KEY
General direction
Berelekh of Homo sapiens
around the world
Site of early
Ust-Mil Homo sapiens


Tianyuan 32,000
42,000 YEARS AGO
31,000 YEARS AGO
Trou Magrite Yamashita-Cho
Paviland Cave
Höhlenstein-Stadel Kostienki
Kent's Cavern
Vindija Cave 45,000 YEARS AGO A S I A
Arcy-sur-Cure Korolevo I

Saint Césaire Istállöskö
El Castillo Le Piage
Pestera cu Oase
Riparo Mochi

Cueva Morín
Gato Preto 40,000

El Pendo Bacho 77,000–45,000 YEARS AGO Liujiang

Gorham's Cave Abríc Romaní
Temnata Uçagizli Magara Zhirendong
Cova Beneito Cave

Jebel Irhoud Ksar Akil
Skhul Qafzeh


Jebel Faya

Jwalapuram Matenkupkum, Balof 2,

and Panakiwuk

A F R I C A Kota Tampan Niah Caves Huon Peninsula

160,000 YEARS AGO
Omo Kibish

1.7 MYA Temperate grassland,

mediterranean shrubland
Nawalabila I

Riwi and
Carpenter's Gap


40,000 YA 45,000

Temperate forest, YEARS AGO

Blombos Cave boreal forest, tundra

River Mouth 7 MYA Tropical and subtropical Upper Swan
dry broadleaf forest, savanna

Allen's Cave Cuddie

Devil's Springs

Going global Changing environments

Skeletal and genetic evidence suggests that modern humans The ancient ancestors of modern humans

originated in Africa and spread across the globe from there, evolved in the African tropics. Over time, as Lake Mungo
as reflected on this map. This is called the “Out of Africa” human species evolved larger brains and

theory. An alternative “multiregional” theory suggests that developed more advanced skills and behavior, Kow Swamp
Homo sapiens evolved simultaneously in many different parts they became better equipped to deal with the Willandra Lakes
of the world, from ancestors who had left Africa much earlier. challenges of new environments.

160,000–45,000 YA 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.


gradually began to reveal the
characteristic skeletal traits of
across Europe and Asia. In
Europe, modern humans
Flores date to less than 38,000
years ago, and seem to represent
specialized, extremely small
,, THE
Homo sapiens from around
400,000 YA: smaller brow ridges,
appeared in Turkey from 40,000 YA,
and in western Europe shortly
forms of Homo erectus, or
perhaps even the descendants
higher and rounder skulls, and afterward. In Asia, fossils of Homo of earlier hominins. More APE-MEN…
chins. DNA analysis of living
humans suggests that the
sapiens in Indonesia and China
date to at least 42,000 YA, and the
evidence comes from Denisova
Cave in Russia—DNA analysis
common ancestor of all living sea crossing to Australia of bones found here reveals AS HUMAN AS
humans (known as Mitochondrial occurred before 45,000 YA. These genetic material distinct from US, BUT THEY
Eve) lived in Africa around dates suggest that the earliest that of both modern humans and

200,000 YA. An Ethiopian fossil modern humans in Asia may Neanderthals, dated to around

have encountered groups of 40,000 YA. It seems increasingly
Prepared core and flake
Homo erectus, who survived in
China until at least 40,000 years
likely that several groups
descended from hominins who BRAND OF
Neanderthals and other hominins
prepared a stone core before ago. In Indonesia the picture left Africa before Homo sapiens HUMANITY.
striking off a sharp flake to use. was even more complicated. may have coexisted in Eurasia
In Europe this technology is Fossils found on the island of at this time. Chris Stringer and Clive Gamble, from
known as the “Mousterian.” In Search of the Neanderthals, 1993
SAPIENS FIRST time and, in such harsh conditions,
complex modern language and
overlapped with Neanderthals,
APPEARED symbolism would have allowed who survived until at least 30,000
groups to exchange resources years ago. How and why
and information with one Neanderthals died out is one of
skull from 160,000 YA is almost another, which could have made the most intensely debated topics
modern in shape; this has been the difference between survival in archaeology. There is little
identified as a subspecies of and extinction. However, others evidence of violent interactions
modern humans, Homo sapiens argue that the impact of the between the species, and
idaltu. Humans moved north into eruption of Mount Toba has been comparison of DNA increasingly
Western Asia some time before exaggerated, and that archaeology suggests that there may have
100,000 YA, but they do not seem in Africa suggests complex hunting been some exchange of mating
to have stayed there for long. practices and the development of HOMO SAPIENS NEANDERTHAL partners between the groups.
It is debated whether uniquely symbolism even before this. Early humans may have
human behaviors such as It is not clear when modern MODERN HUMANS AND NEANDERTHALS outcompeted their relatives for
language and the ability to use humans first spread into Eurasia. food and raw materials in the
symbols evolved before or after Some researchers argue they left Neanderthal skulls (right) were about the same size as rapidly changing environmental
modern human anatomy. One Arabia before 74,000 YA. Others anatomically modern human skulls (left), but they had lower, conditions. Environments at the
theory is that such behaviors say the major migration occurred more sloping foreheads and a double arch of bone over their time were highly unstable, so
became vital only after 74,000 YA, later, 50,000 YA, and via western eyes that created heavy brow ridges. Their lower faces jutted even a slight increase in
when the massive eruption of Asia, after developing a new form out and they did not have chins. Overall, Neanderthal skeletons competition could have been
Mount Toba in Indonesia triggered of stone-tool technology that reveal that they were much more muscular than modern humans, significant. However, populations
a global “volcanic winter.” DNA involved producing long, thin flint as well as being extremely physically active and well-adapted were small and spread out, and
analysis suggests that many “blades,” which probably formed to cold climates. coexisted for up to 10,000 years
human groups died out at this part of composite tools. in Europe, and more than 30,000

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in Indonesia. Alternatively, the PAC I F I C IN EUROPE, SOPHISTICATED BONE and art objects may have helped
exchange of resources and and antler points, needles, and establish group identities and
information allowed by modern O C E A N harpoons characterize the territories, as the number of
humans’ language and symbol “Magdalenian” technologies that archaeological sites in this period
use, and their planned and were used to hunt a wide range of suggests that populations were
flexible technologies made species, especially reindeer. growing, and competition for rich
Homo sapiens better able to The Magdalenian (18,000– and localized resources may have
withstand climatic downturns THE MAXIMUM EXTENT OF THE LAST ICE AGE 12,000 YA) is famous for its been intensifying.
than Neanderthals. beautiful art objects, engravings, A rise in temperature led to the
Others believe that these European climates after 23,000 BCE grew steadily cooler, and and cave paintings. There are many retreat of the ice sheets that had
behaviors were not unique to during the “Last Glacial Maximum” (21,000–18,000 YA), ice caps theories about what these mean covered northern Europe, and
modern humans. Hominins covered most of northern Europe. Farther south, huge areas of and why they were produced. As these areas were rapidly
would have needed to use rafts grassland with few trees offered good hunting for groups of most depict animals that were recolonized, with groups
or boats to reach the island of humans able to survive the cold. hunted, the paintings may expanding as far north as Siberia
Flores in Indonesia by 800,000 YA . represent a magical means of by around 14,000–13,000 YA. Some
Some late Neanderthal sites ensuring hunting success, or groups later moved on into Alaska
also contain elements of THE “GRAVETTIAN” CULTURE OF AT THE HEIGHT OF THE GLACIAL show information about the best and the Americas. Farther east, in
technologies normally associated Europe and Russia (28,000– Maximum, when the ice caps ways to hunt different species. China and in the Jomon culture of
with Homo sapiens, although it is 21,000 YA) is known for its were at their maximum extent, Paintings of imaginary half-human, Japan, some of the first pots
possible that Neanderthals may elaborate sites, which often have people living in more northerly half-animal creatures and the manufactured from clay appeared
have copied, traded with, or even complex structures and burials, and mountainous areas retreated inaccessibility of some cave art between 18,000 and 15,000 YA.
stolen from modern humans. as well as large amounts of shell to “refuge” areas such as—in suggest that painting may have
A combination of environmental jewelry, and sculpted bone and Europe—northern Spain and been a magical or ritual activity, Altamira cave paintings
unrest and increased competition antler. Also found at Gravettian southwest France, where this perhaps practiced by shamans This Paleolithic cave painting
is currently considered to be the sites are some of the earliest period is known as the “Solutrean.” or during initiation or religious of bison was discovered at the
most likely explanation for known clay objects, including some Globally, many groups probably ceremonies. Alternatively, paintings Altamira cave site in Spain.
Neanderthal extinction. of the famous “Venus” figurines. died out, but some held on in
These may have been fertility or more sheltered regions. To survive
religious charms, or part of a the harsh conditions, much time
system of exchange between and effort was invested in hunting.
EURO P E social networks across the region Weapons include beautifully
as the Ice Age intensified. worked points known as “leaf-
AT L A N T I C points.” Although little evidence
“Venus” statuette survives beyond finely worked
Me This figurine bone needles, people probably
from Willendorf, developed sophisticated clothing
ne Austria depicts
an to keep them warm. Perhaps
Se a stylized pregnant
a more importantly, hunters
or obese female
KEY Neanderthal sites figure. would have worked hard to
Modern human sites predict and intercept the
movements of herds of large
Neanderthal and human ranges
Modern humans and Neanderthals animals, ensuring the
coexisted for several thousand belly hunting success that was
years. Sites appear to show evidence the difference between life
of interaction between the groups. and death.

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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.

6700- Settled communities lived here productivity. Farming was were domesticated in the Yellow
6400 BCE by 7000 BCE, including the therefore a choice that people River valley and rice in the Yangzi
Chinchorro, who created made, increasing local valley in China, from where they
6700 BCE the world’s first mummies productivity, often at the cost of spread through East and Southeast
(see panel, opposite). increasing work and risk. Their Asia. In Africa, other millets and
8500- Another area with reasons for farming may have African rice were domesticated
7500 BCE favorable conditions included extending their period of after 3000 BCE. In the Americas,
9600- was West Asia. Here, residence in a settled village, corn was the principal cereal.
8500 BCE vegetation included wild providing extra food for feasting or However, although it was cultivated
cereals that could be to support a growing population, by 6000 BCE, it was not until
13,000- stored, sustaining and boosting the supply of 2000 BCE that corn was sufficiently
9600 BCE communities throughout the preferred or declining foodstuffs. productive to support permanently Lepinski Vir "fish god"
Abundant fish supported a settled
year when Cereals were common staples of settled villages. Legumes and hunter-gatherer village on the
Population density supplemented early agriculture. Wheat and barley vegetables were grown alongside Danube in Serbia. Its inhabitants
The population in western Asia grew by other wild were domesticated in West Asia, cereals in many parts of the world. carved fish-human sculptures,
rapidly from 13,000 to 6400 BCE. foods such as spreading into North Africa, Tubers, such as manioc and probably representing gods.
gazelle. A period Europe, and Central and South yams, and treecrops were
AS STEEPLY RISING TEMPERATURES of cold, arid Asia. Broomcorn and foxtail millet cultivated in moist tropical only the Andes had animals
between 12,700 and 10,800 BCE conditions from regions, beginning at an early date suitable for domestication:
melted the northern ice sheets, 10,800 to 9600 BCE in the New Guinea highlands and guineapigs, llamas, and alpacas.
global sea levels rose, lakes led to a steep the rainforests of Central America Birds, particularly chickens,
formed, and rainfall increased, and northern South America. ducks, and turkeys, were also kept
promoting the Domestic sheep, goats, pigs,
spread of forests and cattle were raised across
and grasslands Eurasia and Africa, initially just for
and providing new meat. However, in the Americas
opportunities for
Coastal areas decline in the availability of wild
drowned by rising sea levels were cereals. This prompted some
rich sources of aquatic foods, as West Asian villagers to turn to
were lakes and rivers. Grasslands cultivation, planting cereals.
sustained large herds of animals, Agriculture began in many
while forest margins provided parts of the world at different
abundant plant foods and game. times, using local resources. holes bored
Most hunter-gatherers moved Domesticated plants and animals into skull
seasonally to exploit the spread by trade between
resources of different areas, but neighboring groups and when bone and antler
particularly favored places such farming communities colonized lightened by
as river estuaries could support new areas. Agriculture was not a scraping
people year round. One such discovery: hunter-gatherers had a Star Carr deer cap
region was coastal Peru and Chile, deep knowledge of the plants and This skull cap from a hunter-
where the cold Humboldt current animals on which they depended, gatherer site in England may have
provides especially rich fisheries. and often took actions to increase been used in hunting rituals.

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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
GREATER ECONOMIC CONTROL The earliest mummies come
not from Egypt, but from
cultivate much larger areas. OVER RESOURCES... FROM coastal northern Chile, an
Wool-bearing sheep were bred in SCAVENGING TO... FARMING. arid region where natural
West Asia in the 4th millennium mummies occur from
BCE, and rapidly spread into Clive Gamble, from Origins and revolutions: human identity in earliest 7000 BCE. After 5000 BCE the
Europe and Central Asia. The use prehistory, 2007 Chinchorro began artificial
of pack animals such as llamas mummification. They removed
and donkeys allowed long- modeled animal heads. Native (naturally occurring pure) the flesh, reassembled and
distance transport. After 7000 BCE farmers spread copper and gold were being reinforced the skeleton, stuffed
Agriculture was more productive from Turkey into southeast shaped into small objects by cold the skin with plant material,
than foraging and could support and central Europe, while hammering before 8000 BCE in coated it in clay, and painted
larger communities. Settled life Mediterranean hunter-gatherers West Asia. Around 7000 BCE, ores it with black manganese or
also encouraged population gradually turned to agriculture, were smelted here to extract red ocher. Only some
growth. Many early farming using imported West Asian crops metal and by 6000 BCE copper and individuals, particularly
villages in West Asia grew to and animals. By 3500 BCE most of lead were also cast. Metals were children, were mummified.
a considerable size. Most Europe had adopted farming. initially made into small personal
remarkable was Çatalhöyük in Megaliths—stone chambered objects that could enhance
Turkey, occupied around 7400– tombs of which a wide variety were prestige and status. Later, network developed that emerging in Elam (southwest
6200 BCE, which housed as many built, often with earthen mounds— however, copper began to be used stretched from Egypt through Iran) and Egypt. Before 3000 BCE
as 8,000 people. Its tightly packed were constructed in western and for tools, and by 4200 BCE copper West Asia to the mountainous all three regions developed
houses were entered from the northern Europe from the early 5th ores containing arsenic were borderlands of South Asia, with writing systems, used to
roof by ladders, and were millennium BCE. Most housed the deliberately selected to produce a towns controlling sources of record and manage economic
decorated with paintings and bones of a number of individuals. harder metal. The addition of tin materials and strategic points transactions and the ownership
created a stronger alloy, bronze, along the routes. Sumer of property. The earliest known
which was in use in West Asia (southern Mesopotamia) was at pictographic writing, around
by 3200 BCE. the forefront of this development, 3300 BCE, comes from Uruk in
The development of water- but social, religious, economic, Sumer, a huge and complex
control techniques enabled West and political complexity was also settlement that is deservedly
7000 BCE 8000 BCE Asian farmers to colonize the known as the world’s first city.
2500 BCE 9000 BCE 9000 BCE
6500 BCE 6000 BCE
southern Mesopotamian plains,
4500 BCE
8000 BCE 6500 BCE Copper ax heads
7000 BCE where agriculture depended Gold and copper were the
6000 BCE 2500 BCE entirely on irrigation but was first metals to be worked.
7000 BCE SOUTH highly productive. By the mid 4th They became widespread
5000 BCE millennium BCE, this region was in Europe around
densely populated, and villages
were developing into towns, with
Livestock Other
craft specialists. There was a
Cereals Areas with agriculture
growing demand for raw
The spread of agriculture materials, including metal
Humans began to cultivate plants and manage animals independently, ores, which often came from
in different areas at different times, across the world. distant sources. A trading

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minerals define
geometric hole for
facial features
design cord

framework geometric,
coated in abstract
thick plaster pattern

finely detailed

Pottery shard Human figurine Schist plaque Engraved bone

4000 BCE • ROMANIA 6750–6500 BCE • JORDAN 4000 BCE • PORTUGAL 13,000–8000 BCE • FRANCE
Different cultures can be identified This large statue from Ain Ghazal It is unclear what Neolithic engraved Paleolithic artists often carved as well
by their unique ways of decorating is one of several from sites in plaques, like this one from Alentejo, as painted their depictions of animals,
objects—this shard is typical of the the Near East that may have symbolized, but they seem to have as with this scene of a bison being
Cucuteni-Tripolye culture. represented ancestors or gods. been made for burial with the dead. chased, from Laugerie-Basse.


Prehistory is traditionally divided into the Stone, Bronze, carefully carved antler
sharpened tip setting
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.
leather or
In addition to being functional aids to survival and subsistence, the objects sinew binding
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.
flint head
set into
scars where wooden
blades chipped sleeve
long, thin
from core

remains of
flaked cobble

Oldowan tool Blades and core wooden handle
The earliest stone tools were Early modern humans produced uniform,
simple, sharp-edged flakes of narrow blades that would have been fitted
stone, made by striking a stone to wooden and antler handles or held in the
cobble with a hard “hammerstone.” hand, as tools for many different purposes.
thick base is
easy to hold

Flint hand-ax Digging tools with adze heads

Antler harpoon 200,000 BCE • UK 11,660–4000 BCE • EUROPE
8000 BCE • UK barbed head made Hand-axes, such as this one from These Mesolithic adzes were used
This harpoon head is attached to a long from antler Swanscombe, were skillfully made for digging up edible roots or cutting
handle for spearing fish—a key source of food and used for a wide range of activities, wood in the forests that spread across
when sea levels rose as the last Ice Age ended. including woodworking and butchery. Europe after the last Ice Age ended.


Clay burial chest

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.

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 exaggerated
from antler. They enabled hunters to throw features
spears farther and with greater force.

Neolithic flint blade Lespugue Venus

set in reproduction 24,000–22,000 BCE • FRANCE
handle This ivory figurine from Lespugue in Mummified head
the Pyrenees is one of many “Venus” 7000–3000 BCE • PERU
figurines—depicting women who are In very dry climates, bodies can
pregnant or obese, or whose female become mummified. Some of
features are greatly exaggerated. the earliest mummies have
been found in Peruvian deserts.

Bronze Age
Gold jewelry
gold easily worked
4700–4200 BCE • BULGARIA into decorative
At the cemetery of Varna in animal shapes
Bulgaria, more than 3,000
pieces of some of the earliest
gold jewelry have been found,
mainly buried with elite males. loom

soft clay was baked
to preserve design
iron sickle blade

Neolithic seal
Agricultural tools 7500–5700 BCE • ANATOLIA Cloth-making tools
9500 BCE–1834 CE • WIDESPREAD Seals such as this one 6500 BCE • ORIGIN UNKNOWN
First wild and later domesticated from the settlement of From the mid-Neolithic, weaving
cereals were harvested using Çatal Höyük were used became common. Loom weights
sickles like these, until they were during the Neolithic to held vertical threads taut; bone
superseded in most places by the stamp decorative designs shuttles were used to weave
invention of the combine harvester. on to skin or cloth. horizontal threads in and out.

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.


world’s first civilizations arose,
THOUSAND The Early Dynastic Period
(c. 3100–2686 BCE) was already
characterized by many of the
made the land fertile. As early
as 8000 BCE, millet had been
cultivated in the area around
first in Western Asia, then North THE POPULATION celebrated aspects of Egyptian Yangshao in Henan Province.
Africa and South Asia. Civilization culture: hieroglyphic writing, a Around c. 2400 BCE, the
also appeared in China in the OF THE CITY OF sophisticated religion (including neighboring Dawenkou culture
early second millennium BCE. By
3000 BCE, the world’s first urban
URUK c. 2800 BCE belief in an afterlife), and
preserving the dead using
developed into the Longshan
culture of Shangdong Province.
culture had begun to develop in mummification. A complex Longshan farmers grew rice
southern Mesopotamia, in what smiths began manufacturing river’s annual flood (known as the hierarchical society developed, after developing irrigation
is now Iraq. The lower Euphrates bronze. The plow had been in inundation) spread black silt along with the king at the apex systems. As in other early
river plains had been farmed use since about 5000 BCE, wheeled its banks. The Egyptian farming accorded semi-divine status. civilizations, agricultural success
from c. 6200 BCE, after the carts from around 3500 BCE, and year began in the fall when the Egyptian kings—later known as allowed the development of an
development of irrigation such advances made farming inundation subsided, and farmers pharaohs—ruled with the help of elaborate society. Chinese
systems—the Greek word more productive. The resulting cultivated wheat, barley, beans, a chief minister, or vizier, regional craftsmen were making bronze
mesopotamia means “land food surplus freed some people and lentils in the fertile soil. governors (nomarchs), and a tools c. 3000 BCE, jade vessels
between the rivers.” By 3500 BCE, from the farming life, allowing By the end of the 4th huge staff of lesser officials c. 2700 BCE, and silk weaving had
farming communities were specialization into professions millennium BCE, farming including priests, tax collectors, begun by 3500 BCE.
growing into towns and then such as priesthood, crafts, trade, communities had evolved into and scribes. The Bronze Age was underway
cities such as Ur, Uruk, and and administration. The world’s two kingdoms: Upper Egypt in In China, civilization originated in western Asia by 3000 BCE, and
Eridu. Over the next 300 years, first tiered society developed, the south and Lower Egypt in in the valleys of eastern rivers possibly considerably earlier. The
each city came to dominate its headed by kings sometimes the north. King Narmer united such as the Huang He (Yellow Bronze Age in Europe seems to
surrounding area, forming a known as lugals. the two kingdoms c. 3100 BCE. River), where the rich loess soil have developed separately from
group of city-states in the land In Egypt, one of the world’s most After Narmer came Menes, around 2500 BCE, using ore
called Sumer in southeast complex ancient civilizations although historians are sources from the Carpathian
Mesopotamia. was forming along the banks of unsure whether Menes Mountains in Central Europe.
Metalworking had begun in the Nile River by 3100 BCE. The was Narmer’s successor This era also saw the
Mesopotamia around 6000 BCE. Nile formed a narrow strip of or a different name for beginnings of the Minoan
Around 3200 BCE, Sumerian cultivatable land, floodplain, as the Narmer himself. Menes civilization on the Greek
is credited with founding island of Crete around
Tigris the Egyptian capital at 2000 BCE, with trading links
t ain Memphis and Egypt’s to the nearby Cyclades
o un
M first dynasty. Islands and the wider
r us Euphrate M Zagr
s es
os M
As in Mesopotamia, Mediterranean. In Western

ota E lam t ai efficient agriculture Europe, the earlier tradition of

m i a Nippur ns
Kish Umma produced prosperity and megalithic tomb building and a
Shuruppak Lagash specialism, allowing arts, growing interest in astronomical

a ne

Uruk Ur crafts, engineering, and observation gave rise to a new

Se rra

t Eridu Gulf early medicine to develop. megalithic tradition of erecting

di Arabian Peninsula
Me stone circles, stone rows,
standing stones, and tombs
Ancient cities of Mesopotamia KEY Narmer Palette
Sumer in southern Mesopotamia was the This carved piece of green siltstone including astronomical features.
Extent of Early Dynastic
location of the world’s first urban civilization city-states records the triumph of the legendary These include Newgrange in
from c. 2900 BCE as agricultural success Ancient coastline King Narmer of Upper Egypt over Ireland, Stonehenge in England,
led to a complex society. his enemies. 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.

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
Standard of Ur mound—provided the focus for side panels is still a mystery; they resources. This led to conflicts first pyramid, the Step Pyramid of
This boxlike object has two side religious ceremonies, and grain may have formed the soundbox over land and water, and alliances Saqqara, was completed for King
panels—one depicting war, the other was kept in storerooms within the of a lyre. between cities were forged Djoser. Designed by the architect
(shown here) times of peace. temple precincts. From around Arising from the need to keep and broken. Imhotep, it resembled six stone
2500 BCE, some citizens of Ur were economic and administrative The first signs of civilization in mastabas on top of one another.
SOUTHERN MESOPOTAMIA was buried in tombs along with records, the first pictographic the Americas appeared along the Straight-sided pyramids
a patchwork of over 40 city-states, treasures such as the Standard writing developed in Sumer coast of Peru and in the Andes appeared soon after, the greatest
among which Ur, Uruk, Nippur, of Ur. The purpose of its intricate (c. 3300 BCE). Pictographs (pictorial c. 2800 BCE. Andean farmers grew of which were the three pyramids
and Kish were the most important. writing representing a word or potatoes and the cereal quinoa, at Giza. These incredible feats of
Trade flourished using a network phrase) evolved into a script called and raised alpacas and llamas. engineering were constructed not
of rivers and canals, and trade cuneiform c. 2900 BCE, in which There were fishing communities by slaves as was once thought, but
links extended to Anatolia scribes pressed sharpened on the coast, while inland towns by a staff of full-time craftsmen
(modern-day Turkey), Iran, reeds into soft clay to leave became ceremonial centers, and masons supplemented by
and Afghanistan, with grain, wedge-shaped impressions. built around mud-brick temple farmers performing a type of
minerals, lumber, tools, and Southern Mesopotamia platforms. An exceptional example national service during the Nile
vessels traded. The Sumerian became densely populated, is Caral, about 125 miles (200 km) floods. Enormous blocks of stone
population was unique in being putting pressure on natural from Lima and dating from (lower stones of 6–10 tons; higher
predominantly urban. In Ur, c. 2600 BCE. Another, Aspero, had ones of 1–2 tons) were cut from
Uruk, and other centers, people Cuneiform tablet six platform mounds topped by local quarries, hauled on site using
lived in clustered mud-brick Over time, the inventory of signs temples. Cotton was grown in the sleds, and then heaved up ramps,
houses. At the heart of the city, the regularly used in cuneiform script region, and corn was cultivated which grew ever higher as
ziggurat—a terraced temple was greatly reduced. from around 2700 BCE. construction progressed.

Ol od, l ied ow
CE ri t t; E ur Pl cle
6 B pe erf Egyp E) yp BC r b s; , E cir
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(l inc ildin , an re Uru
of St
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St a, ial Ag
CE on as tio
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3B f E r em ch in
61 y o 0 q a er
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6 –2 ast ith 2 65 t Sa jos E) Ce , su uilt u t r
ns am pt Br ope ifact d
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E r rt an
26 t 67 uilt ing 648 B 0 B nte ral, l Pe 00 n E ze Po
u a l
c.  hird star anak 0 E
26 K 6 ce Ca sta C ee za 4 B 25 s i
c.  id b , for 67–2
T pt S c.   2 a 89 thr Gi 50 c.  gin t bro ed i
n n
y ing m t co 25 of s at c. 2
E g ra yp  26 c .  
d b ies ver
K Py Eg (r. gin te r l co
be ple ea dis
o m
2500–2350 BCE 2350–2200 BCE

The ruined citadel of Mohenjo-daro was made up of various buildings. It was Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, England, is one of the tallest man-made chalk mounds
built on a platform to guard against flooding of the Indus River. in Europe. These mounds probably had a social or cultural function.


MILLENNIUM BCE, civilizations Shortughai Hi MESOPOTAMIA c. 2334BCE, King
continued to develop in western la Sargon (c. 2334–2215 BCE) from

Asia, Egypt, and and southern s the northern region of Akkad Bronze-working had begun
Asia, and complex societies were Ropar
defeated Lugalzagesi of Umma to in West Asia c. 3200BCE (see
Ir anian
emerging in China, Europe, and Plateau Harappa
Banawali become the ruler of Sumer. 10,000–3000BCE). It was
South America. Kalibangan Rakhighari Through subsequent campaigns developed by the Únětice

In southern Asia, the Indus to the Levant, Syria, and Anatolia, culture of Bohemia and

civilization (see 2700–2500BCE) Sargon carved out the world’s first Poland c. 2500BCE, and

emerged in its mature form Mohenjo-daro empire—the Akkadian Empire— 200 years later had
around 2500BCE, stretching Mo agr stretching from the eastern spread to Italy and the
un os Chanhu-daro
1,060 miles (1,700 km) from east ins Indus Dholavira Mediterranean to the Gulf. Balkans. Bronze
to west and 800 miles (1,300 km) Pe
Sargon’s exploits were recorded provided a hard metal
rs i Lothal
from north to south. The region’s an Sutkagen-dor in several documents, such as the for forging armor,
Gu Kuntasi
prosperity was based on farming, lf Sumerian King List. His name weapons, and tools
Ar a b i a n
mining, crafts, and trade. More Sea means “legitimate king,” which such as this hand ax.
than 100 sites have been Indus civilization KEY led some scholars to believe that The bronze industry
excavated, including the cities Excavations suggest that the Indus Zone of urban civilization he took power through force. also increased trade,
of Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, civilization covered an area far larger than Urban centers Sargon spoke Akkadian, a making Europe more
and Dholovira. Mesopotamia and Egypt combined. Modern coastline Semitic language that replaced interconnected than
Mohenjo-daro and Harappa Sumerian as the official ever before.
were well-planned cities laid such as pottery, bead-making, the surrounding regions in return language of the empire.
out on a grid system. Each city and metalworking. for metal ores, precious stones,
was protected by brick walls
and dominated by a citadel
overlooking a “lower town” of
Indus cities and towns had the
most advanced plumbing system
in the ancient world, with enclosed
and timber. Long-distance trade
routes reached as far as
Mesopotamia and Afghanistan.
grandson, Naram-Sin, extended
the empire, but it lasted for only
four generations before falling
public buildings and residential wells and covered drains. Latrines By around 2500 BCE, an Indus to attacks. Sargon’s rule
town houses of one or two stories. emptied waste into drains, which script of hundreds of signs LAY [CONTENTED] established a practice of
The residential areas ran below the streets. appeared on seals and pottery.
IN THEIR statewide bureaucratic controls

were seemingly These urban centers were also Attempts to decipher the script and standardization in many
divided by industry, connected by extensive trade have failed; hence, many aspects MEADOWS, AND aspects of economic life.
links. Merchants
supplied craft
of this culture remain a mystery.
In western Asia, Mesopotamia
THE LAND In Egypt, this period saw a
weakening of the power of the
products from (see 2700–2500BCE) remained a REJOICED. Old Kingdom rulers (see
the valleys to patchwork of small but powerful 2700–2500BCE), in favor of
city-states, each controlling the Lugalzagesi, king of Sumer, regional governors called
defeated by Sargon c. 2316 BCE
surrounding farmlands where nomarchs, who administered
Agrarian lives barley, legumes, and date palms different parts of the Nile valley
A clay model of were grown. To the west, city- Akkadian rule was enforced and delta. To the south of the first
a bullock cart states were developing in Syria through regional governors who cataract on the Nile, the kingdom
found at Mohenjo-
daro, dating back to and the Levant. A trade network collected tributes and taxes. The of Nubia also grew more
c. 2500–1900 BCE, gives linking Mesopotamian towns empire’s weakness lay in its lack powerful. Nubia was centered
one-piece an insight into farming suggests cooperation between of defensible borders, and it around the city of Kerma at the
cart wheel life in the Indus states, but there was frequent came under regular attacks from third cataract. By the end of
civilization. warfare as well. neighboring hill tribes. Sargon’s the Sixth dynasty (c. 2184 BCE),

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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 and along the Pacific coast and THE MOUNTAIN PEOPLE OF brought fertility to the Nile Longshan pottery
rulers had steadily eroded. inland valleys. Andean cultures GUTIUM ATTACKED the Akkadian valley. The rule of This elegant pottery tripod
In Western Europe, the Bell were based on farming and Empire c. 2150 BCE. Sumerian Memphis, the capital city pitcher has tapering legs
Beaker culture flourished. herding. Coastal settlements states such as Kish, Ur, and of the Old Kingdom, was and swirling patterns,
characteristic of
Named after the distinctive shape such as Aspero (Peru) were Lagash took the opportunity to overthrown as nomarchs and
the Longshan
of pottery vessels found in unique in their dependence on reassert their independence. nobles seized control of the culture.
graves, this culture emerged by fishing rather than on agriculture. For the next 80 years, the provinces. This ushered in a
c. 2600 BCE in France, Spain, and The coastal people grew cotton for city-states vied for control in time of unrest called the First
the Netherlands. Over the next textiles, and gourds, which were Mesopotamia. In 2112 BCE, Ur Intermediate Period, the first
three centuries, it spread to used as fishing floats. under Ur-Nammu (r. 2112– of the three eras of uncertainty
Germany and Britain. Around 2095 BCE) gained ascendancy. The in Egyptian history. For 140
2300 BCE, bronze technology armies of Ur overran eastern years, kingdoms such as
from Mediterranean regions and Mesopotamia and Elam, and Herakleopolis in central Egypt
from Central Europe started regained much of vied for control with Thebes
to spread northward Sargon’s empire. in the south. In c. 2040 BCE,
along the Rhine and Ur-Nammu founded the the Theban ruler Nebhepetre
Danube. The Third dynasty of Ur, Mentuhotep defeated his
increasingly which witnessed a rivals and united Egypt once
militaristic societies revival of Sumerian more, beginning the start of
used bronze to create power, as well as an what came to be known as the
weapons, triggering artistic and cultural Middle Kingdom.
the appearance of renaissance. Sumerian In China, the Neolithic
small chiefdoms scholars devised a method of Longshan culture (see 3200 BCE)
across Europe. counting, based on units of continued to develop along the been found to confirm the
As populations grew, 60. This system is reflected Yellow River in Shandong existence of a centralized state
competition over land in our modern division of province. According to Chinese in China at this time.
and resources hours into 60 minutes, historical tradition, the first By the end of the 3rd millennium,
intensified. Fields were minutes into 60 seconds, dynasty, Xia (Hsia), was founded Europe’s first civilization was
enclosed, farming and a circle into 360 by Yu the Great. However, no emerging on the Mediterranean
expanded, and boundary degrees. archaeological evidence has island of Crete, which lay at the

walls built. Imposing Ur-Nammu also heart of Mediterranean trade
structures such as chalk commissioned the first routes. Known as the Minoan
mounds were constructed ziggurat in Ur—an imposing civilization, it grew prosperous
in many areas. stepped platform topped through trade and farming.
In South America, with a temple. The ziggurats Cretan farmlands produced wheat,
societies continued to later became a characteristic olives, wine, and wool, which could
develop in two distinct of ancient western Asian be easily transported by sea. The
regions: the upland valleys architecture. Minoans also made bronzework,

and high plains of the Andes, In c. 2181 BCE, Egypt’s Old pottery, and dyes for export. By
Kingdom collapsed following 2000 BCE, Crete was home to
a series of natural disasters, several small kingdoms.
Akkadian warrior king
This bronze cast of an Akkadian including famine. This THE LIKELY
ruler may depict Sargon I or his
grandson, Naram-Sin, who
undermined the authority of
the king, who was believed to
extended Sargon’s empire. secure the annual floods that OF UR c.2100

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are picture

Egyptian hieroglyphic and hieratic script

This ancient Egyptian papyrus manuscript shows two forms of
hieratic script reads papyrus, made illustration shows a Egyptian writing: hieratic script (left) and hieroglyphic script
from right to left by pressing priest making an offering (right) above the two figures. Hieroglyphic is an elaborate script
together layers to the god Osiris in which signs take a highly pictorial form, while hieratic is a
of strips of reed simplified version of hieroglyphic for ease of speed and writing.

Prehistory c. 3200 BCE 8th century BCE 100

Pictograms Egyptian hieroglyphs The Greek alphabet The Roman alphabet
Pictures painted on walls Egyptian writing develops The first alphabets, using The Romans adapt the
of caves up to 25,000 100 years after cuneiform. only consonants, develop Greek script to write Latin.
years ago are considered This script begins as a form in the Levant by c. 1150 BCE. Through the Roman Empire,
a precursor to writing, of picture writing, and They include the Phoenician this alphabet spreads across
recording information includes signs for words and alphabet, which spreads to Europe and is used for
that could then be also sounds. It remains in the Greeks through trade, personal as well as official
understood by others. Cave images by Anasazi Indians use until the 4th century CE. who add vowels. Greek wax tablet correspondence.

3300 BCE c. 1900 BCE c. 6th century BCE

Cuneiform Chinese writing Parchment
The first true written The first surviving Chinese Made from dried and
script is developed by the writing appears on oracle processed animal skins,
Sumerians of Mesopotamia. bones, used in divination. parchment becomes a
Writing with a reed stylus This ancient script is still popular medium for writing
creates a wedge-shaped in use today. Chinese script around the 6th century BCE,
impression on tablets of wet involves 50,000 characters taking over from papyrus, a Chinese
clay, which then dry hard. Mesopotamian tablet that stand for words. Chinese paper scroll paper made from reeds. parchment scroll



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 Writing systems can be divided into three types,
featuring images and symbols constitute a form of according to the function of the signs used:
writing. The first true script was developed by the logographic, syllabic, and alphabetic. However,
Sumerians of Mesopotamia (now Iraq) around some scripts make use of two types of signs. In
3300 BCE. Soon, a number of different ancient logographic scripts, each sign stands for a whole
cultures had developed writing, usually to keep word; Chinese writing is an example, although it
economic records or keep track of time. As writing also uses syllabic signs. The drawback is that a very
developed, it was commonly used to reinforce the large number of symbols are needed (Chinese has
authority of rulers. Many early texts, including 50,000 characters). In syllabic scripts, signs stand
Roman mosaic Modern sign
monumental ones in stone, glorify the deeds of for syllables. A smaller but still large number of
kings and attribute their success to divine approval. signs are needed—700 in Babylonian cuneiform. PICTOGRAPHIC SYMBOLS
In alphabetic scripts, each sign stands for a sound.
Far fewer symbols are needed—usually around 26. Pictograms, or picture signs, are an ancient form
of communication. Some scholars do not consider
The first alphabets developed in the Levant between
pictograms to be “true” writing, since the symbols
1450 and 1150 BCE. For years, the spread of writing do not convey the sounds of words in any language.
was limited by the labor involved in hand-copying For example, the pictures above—from a house
texts, but this changed with the invention of in Roman Pompeii dating to 79 CE, and a modern
printing. In the late 20th century, writing became sign—convey the same warning. The symbol
electronic with the invention of word processors. can be read in any language—for instance, as
canis, chien, Hund, or dog. Those words convey
In the 1990s, the spread of information was again
the same idea but reproduce the sounds of different
revolutionized by the arrival of the Internet. languages—Latin, French, German, and English.
Pictograms have limited use but remain
Ancient texts in the digital world widespread, appearing, for example, on street
Nowadays, ancient texts can be viewed digitally.
signs, maps, and clothes labels.
Here, a student examines a digitized page of the Codex
Sinaiticus, handwritten in Greek over 1,600 years ago.

7th century c. 1450 1884 1990–present

Arabic script Invention of printing The fountain pen Text messaging
The Arabic alphabet is In medieval times, the laboriousness The first practical fountain In the 1990s, the first text
used to write down the of copying by hand limits the pen is produced by American messages are sent via mobile
Qur’an, the holy book spread of writing. The invention inventor L. E. Waterman, phones. Texting becomes very
of Islam. Its use spreads of printing using movable type and quickly replaces the popular in the 2000s. In 2009,
with the Islamic faith to makes writing far more accessible. quill pen. Ballpoints, more than 1.5 trillion
become one of the world’s Medieval In 1500, an estimated 35,000 texts invented by László Bíró, Waterman text messages
most widely used scripts. Qur’an are in print. are in use by the 1940s. fountain pen are sent. Smartphone

4th century 7th–9th centuries 1867–1868 1965

The codex Illuminated manuscripts The typewriter Writing enters the digital age
The codex, or manuscript In early medieval times, the American inventor Christopher In the mid-1960s, the first
in book form, gradually use of writing spreads through Latham Sholes helps to build electronic messages (emails)
supersedes the roll of the copying of Christian texts. the first practical typewriter. are sent from one computer to
parchment. Originally Illuminated manuscripts are The patent is sold to another. Emails become popular
developed by the Romans, highly decorative, with ornate Remington, which puts with the spread of personal
the use of codices spreads capital letters and marginal the first typewriters The Remington computers in the 1980s.
with the Christian religion. illustrations. Book of Durrow on sale in 1874. Model I

2000–1850 BCE 1850–1790BCE

Egyptian hieroglyphics involved the use of pictorial signs. This example

is from a coffin from the Middle Kingdom period.

THE MINOAN CIVILIZATION, named the administration, religious worshipped in Minoan shrines
after the legendary King Minos, facilities, and state storerooms. seem to have been female, with
flourished on the Aegean island Those at Knossos, Phaestos, a goddess of nature being the
of Crete in the early 2nd Mallia, and Zakros were most popular. However, details of
millennium, reaching its peak particularly impressive, judging by Minoan culture remain obscure,
between 2000 and 1600 BCE. It is their remains. Around 1700 BCE, since the Minoan scripts, known as
thought that Crete’s prosperity these palaces were burned down, Cretan hieroglyphic and Linear A,
was based on the export of and only Knossos was rebuilt, on have yet to be deciphered.
pottery, gold, and bronze, as well a more magnificent scale than In Egypt, King Mentuhotep THE NUMBER
as possibly grain, wine, and oil,
to Egypt, Cyprus, and Palestine.
before, suggesting its dominance
over the entire island. The palace
had reunited the country at the
end of the 3rd millennium (see OF DAYS IT
The Minoans established colonies
in many parts of the Aegean,
was five stories high, with rooms
opening onto inner courtyards.
2350–2000 BCE). Yet the second of
Egypt’s eras of strong, centralized
including the islands of Kythera, This mazelike complex is thought rule only began with the reign of MUMMIFY
Thera, Melos, and Rhodes, and at
Miletos on the Turkish mainland.
to have given rise to the labyrinth
in the legend of the Minotaur, a
Amenemhet I, from about
1985 BCE, during the Middle
The farmlands of Crete were bull-headed monster. Kingdom. In 1965 BCE, his
Shang bronze
ruled from cities with central Bulls certainly featured in successor Senwosret I conquered extending Egypt’s borders as far This bronze plate was found at
palaces that housed workshops, Minoan ceremonies. The deities the land of Nubia to the south, as the second cataract of the Nile. Erlitou, and is of the Xia period. It is
Nubia yielded gold, copper, and inlaid with turquoise mosaic, believed
slaves to swell the ranks of to represent a dragon’s scales.
Egypt’s army. Around a century
later, Senwosret III also made IN CHINA, THE SHANG
Levant a vassal state of Egypt. CIVILIZATION developed along
Middle-Kingdom Egypt was the Yellow River by 1850 BCE.
more democratic than it was According to legend, China’s first
during the Old Kingdom period. dynasty was the Xia, but current
Rulers presented themselves as archaeological evidence points
shepherds of the state rather than to Shang as the first dynasty.
absolute monarchs. The process At Erlitou in Henan province,
of mummification, once confined archaeologists have uncovered
to kings, was now permitted for a palace complex built on a
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 OF CLAY
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. AT MARI
gs of bli ,
ty 0– ols rs rin d eign uers esta mia
Ci es rn 0 E ll To esto from o CE
0 5 B t I b ing CE tI
ty u cte a
E R onq ia to pot l
CE com the 2 C c t e r 0 B re str BC
00 be nor c.  50 B Sma , an read ada 5
19 mh du iod 92 os E
BC con
c o
81 dad; otam Mes t-En
20 ur in a 17 ctic tion , sp Can 5 – ne ypt er –1 enw 00 17 p a
c.  Ash ant 98 me Eg m p 6 5 S u low 3– hi-A eso pper hub
i Ar pula Inuit oss d   1
c. ng A ty to gdo 19 of 19 to
c.  Erli Yel a
18 ams rn M f U at S
of min ota
po the acr nla
n c.  ign pt d
do sop Ki bili Kin Re Egy o oun Chin
f Sh rthe m o ital
of aska Gree sta ddle ar ver, no ngdo cap
Me Al ttle of
Mi Ri Ki th its
se wi

an I
, be ated et BC
or ultiv ort e
h BC
E sr d nd 0 n
00 of wo ia an s sa s 70 tio
EC c N c n –1 iza ies
BC ash ern tan ce 16 ion t of Se ub far a le wn dom ia 00 ivil ; cit ed
0 t
0 squ es -di pla s 0 – izat eigh E
BC ts
i T o g ol 19 c s n
20 ivi l h ing n N CE kin at c.  dus line ndo
c.  and uth lon es in
c.  n c ches nd bylo 60 fea m on 0 B all An
u 19 t de gdo ract 0 In dec aba
so a; t a
no rea Fo Ba yp kin ata 19 sm ng in
in eric e rou CE of c.  i lly
Mi ete 4 B asty Eg is c lop ua
Am trad r 8 of ds h ond ve ad
C 19 n n c e gr
c.  st dy ex
te se d
30 fir
1790–1650 BCE

Area of Shang influence A S I A
Shang city Yellow River
Bo Hai
Shang China

o n
The middle course of the Yellow River Xi’ang Xingtai
a nd
was the heartland of the Shang Shang capital Sh
1400–1300 BCE Yellow Law Code of Hammurabi, king of Babylon
civilization c. 1800–1100 BCE. From Shang capital S ea
here, Shang influence, such as Huixian 1300–1027 BCE
bronze-working, spread elsewhere. Zhengzhou WHEN THE ASSYRIAN KING measure as the crime committed
Luoyang Shang capital SHAMSHI-ADAD died in 1781 BCE, (“an eye for an eye”). However, it is
1600–1400 BCE
Erlitou he was succeeded by his son thought that the law code was

E a st C h ina S ea
platform of compressed earth. Huai Ishme-Dagan. During his reign, more of a moral statement of
They have also unearthed bronze Henan Assyria declined, allowing the principle than an enforced judicial

R iver
vessels. Evidence suggests that state of Babylon to come to the system. As such, the code bound


many features that were to Ya fore. During the reign of Shamshi- the powerful and wealthy as well
characterize Chinese society later, Wucheng Adad, Babylon was probably a as ordinary people; the strong
such as a strong bureaucracy vassal state of Assyria, but as were exhorted to refrain from
and the worship of ancestors, Assyria declined, King Hammurabi oppressing the weak.
date back to this time. of Babylon saw his chance to seize
In southern Asia, the Indus Long-distance trade routes linked in c. 1894 BCE. In the north, the city a wider kingdom. From 1760 BCE,
civilization, which had thrived coastal towns with communities of Ashur became an important Hammurabi embarked on a series
during the 3rd millennium (see in Andean valleys to the east and trading center in the 20th century of conquests, which made
2500–2350 BCE), went into a beyond. This allowed for the BCE. In 1813 BCE, it was taken over Babylon the region’s foremost
decline by around 1800 BCE. spread of pottery from Colombia by the Amorite king Shamshi- state. Between 1763–1762 BCE,
Scholars believe that this was to Peru by 1800 BCE. Meanwhile, Adad, who carved out a kingdom he defeated Elam to the east and
partly caused by the changes in in North America, crops such in northern Mesopotamia. This Larsa, which controlled Sumer, to
the regimes of the rivers that as sunflowers and gourds began kingdom was a forerunner of the the south. In 1757–1755 BCE, King
provided water for irrigation. to be cultivated in the east. Greater Assyrian Empire of the Hammurabi conquered much of
Cities seem to have been ravaged In Western Asia, the fall of the 9th century BCE (see 900–800 BCE). northern Mesopotamia and took
by diseases such as cholera and Ur III Empire led to the rise of two Clay tablets recovered from the city of Eshnunna after
malaria. Trade with Mesopotamia states—Assyria in the north and Mari in central Mesopotamia hold diverting its water supply.
also declined. Meanwhile, new Babylon in the southeast—which records of trade and tributes Hammurabi introduced the
crops such as millet and rice were were to dominate Mesopotamia levied by Assyria from vassal- Babylonian law code in the region
introduced. All these factors seem for the next 1,500 years. The first states. Writing from this period under his control. Its 282 laws
to have led to a decline in urban dynasty of Babylon was established included copies of the earliest covered property, family, trade,
culture, characterized by writing surviving work of literature, and business practices. The Law
and a centralized bureaucracy, in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Code of Hammurabi is famous
favor of a rural-based culture. for punitive laws that meted out
In South America, large-scale punishments in the same
cultivation was taking place along Sumerian hero
the Pacific coast by about Tablets and stone carvings
from the Old Babylonian Set in stone
1800 BCE. Substantial settlements
period provide a record of Hammurabi’s code was inscribed on
such as El Paraíso and Sechin the Epic of Gilgamesh, stone pillars called stele. This stele
Alto in Peru were dominated by previously passed down shows the god of justice Shamash
massive temple complexes. in the oral tradition. (left) dictating laws to the king.

CE ra es
g 5 0 B mu lish na
an 7 am tab e in ar
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or itio of ng ine to
Sh gins 92 of H n; es mpi a d g i
BC be
7 n
1 ig ylo E n d l cod ire Tr din y K E
00 tion Re Bab nian ia a lega emp CE un y b BC es
18 6 B r fo ast g to 50 m
c.  iliza a of bylo otam es a his 6
17 te fo dyn rdin y .   17 t co ete
t c rip Cr
civ Chin Ba sop lgat hou da ang cco stor
Me omu oug sc e in
in r r Sh ng, a e hi us
p et h Ta ines
us Ch

ial ge m ;
do rest
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m rida C E L ple n
Ki un diat )
re o u B m lto le by E
Ce a Fl Per 50 co A u dd orn rme 0 BC
BC of L lt in .   17 nial chin Per i
M tt te  154
0 c o Se in E p In .
0 ter bui m C y
18 re of ted 25
Eg cond (to c
c.  cen ce c 17 Se riod
tru c .  f
ns rt
o Pe
3000–700 BCE E A R LY C I V I L I Z AT I O N S to Central and
Northern Europe

Sardinia Troy
Io nian Gla SEHA
Orchomenos Thebes
Apasa MIRA
Mycenae ARZAWA
Sicily Miletus
Menelaion Tiryns

A F R I C A rran
ean S

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.
gold timber glass

KEY silver grain faience objects

Mycenaean Greece Elam tin 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

Kassite Babylonia textiles wine weapons R


In the 3rd millennium BCE, states emerged in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the
Indus. Urban society was consolidated in Western Asia in the 2nd millennium, THE WORLD PICTURE
and powerful states vied for control of lands; in contrast, in South Asia, towns Urbanism and complex societies became more
disappeared. Complex societies emerged in China and the Americas. widespread during the 2nd millennium BCE.
While they shared many features such as
The exceptional agricultural productivity of the increasingly focused on urban centers, and came trade, high agricultural productivity, dense
Nile, Euphrates, Indus (see p.26), and Yellow (see into competition for resources and markets. populations, and their managerial needs, urban
p.31) river valleys undoubtedly played a part in the High-level diplomacy was essential to the smooth societies took many different forms. In the
precocious emergence of civilizations in these operation of international trading networks and Americas, large ceremonial complexes with
regions. So did international trade, which was also to success in inter-state power struggles. Royal residential suburbs provided the focus for the
important in the development of the first New letters found in the Egyptian capital, Akhetaten communities of the wider region, strongly
World civilizations. Trade also enabled many (Amarna), provide a fascinating picture of relations connected by shared religion and trade.
neighboring societies to achieve prosperity: between the 14th-century BCE rulers of the rival
Advanced centers
through time they developed complex cultures great states of the eastern Mediterranean. This map shows

,, established and

emerging civilizations Chavín Assyria

FOR A LONG TIME WE HAVE in the later 2nd

millennium BCE.
Olmec Hittites


Shang Mitanni
Societies of farmers Mycenaeans Elam
and hunter-gatherers
US KINGS… occupied other

Babylonian king Burnaburiash II to Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten,

from the Amarna letters, 14th century BCE

k S
TUMMANNA The Nile Valley's exceptional agricultural Cyprus
PALA KASKAS fertility promoted the early development
Hattusas Me
UPP of urbanism in Egypt. Settlements clung diterr
a ne an Sea
AND to the Nile delta and riverbanks, beyond
HITTITE URUADRI which lay arid desert. The great mineral Nile Delta
EMPIRE (URARTU) resources of the flanking desert regions
HAPALLA and Nubia, which included gold, were Eastern


important both for domestic use and to


TA R H U N T A S KIZZ U Carchemish support international trade. ES Abydos

Washshukanni DE TER





Alalah Nineveh Arbil
KEY Elephantine

Ugarit Aleppo Emar MITANNI Trade routes Capital cities NUBIA

Cyprus Arwad Eu
(Alashiya) Tunip Ashur S IA
Qatna R A DES


to Afghanistan
Simurru Labwe
Byblos Kumida Dur-Kurigalzu Old Kingdom c. 2686–2181 BCE
Sidon Hazor Rulers exercised centralized control
BABYLONIA and commanded impressive resources,
Tyre Shechem Babylon as shown by the pyramids at Giza.
Gaza Jerusalem Nippur
Sharuhen Uruk
Anshan Cyprus
a ne an Sea

(Tell el-Dab’a)

LOWER c.1650–1550 BCE

Akhetaten Memphis Sinai

capital Eastern
c.1985–1650 BCE Desert



W Waset (Thebes)
ES Karnak





capital EGYPT
Thebes DILMUN c.2055–1985 BCE
and c.1650–1550 BCE

A r abian S

Pe n in s u l a KUSH

Middle Kingdom c. 2040–1640 BCE

Decorated tombs record prosperous life
to Punt under the stable 12th dynasty, but the
state disintegrated under later rulers.

S i b e r i a
dite rr
an e an Sea
Mycenae Per-Ramesse (Qantir)
Xi’ang LOWER
Ashur EGYPT Sinai
Babylon Susa Zhengzhou PACIFIC Memphis
OCEAN S A H A R A Akhetaten (Amarna) Desert


San ES Waset (Thebes)




Chavín de ATLANTIC
Huántar INDIAN


New Kingdom c. 1550–1069 BCE

Egypt reached its greatest power and
prosperity, conquering Nubia and the
Levant, and building several temples.

1650–1550 BCE 1550–1400 BCE

Hattusas, the Hittite capital, was founded by Hattusalis I Built over 300 years, the temple complex at Karnak, Egypt, includes the world’s
in 1650 BCE and destroyed in 1180 BCE. largest temple, dedicated to Amun-Re, the patron deity of the pharaohs.

AFTER HAMMURABI’S DEATH in IN c. 1550 BCE, THE THEBAN KING Egyptian religion was very on the Greek mainland. Its
1750 BCE, the Babylonian Empire Ahmose I (r. 1550–1525 BCE) complex. Every village, town, and people are now known as the
(see 1850–1790 BCE) declined. drove the Hyksos from Lower district had its own patron deity. In Mycenaeans, after the fortress-
At the same time, other powers Egypt, ushering in the third paintings and sculptures, many palace of Mycenae, believed to be
were on the rise, such as the period of settled rule in Egypt, deities were shown with animal the home of the mythical king
Hurrians of Mitanni in Syria, and known as the New Kingdom heads, representing their most Agamemnon from Homer’s Iliad.
the Hittites of Anatolia in Turkey. (c. 1550–1070 BCE). During this important attributes. For example, However, the Mycenaeans
By 1650 BCE, the Hittites had time, Egyptian rulers assumed the falcon god Horus protected
built an extensive kingdom in the king, while the ibis-

central Anatolia, with its capital headed Thoth was the
at Hattusas. The Hittites had patron god of scribes.
developed advanced bronze- and By 1600 BCE, a
ironworking skills, and they were IRON-WORKING new civilization
also known to be fierce fighters. emerged
In 1595 BCE, the Hittite king The Hittites developed iron
Mursilis (r. 1620–1590 BCE) raided smelting by c. 1500 BCE. At THE NUMBER
Babylon and expanded his first, iron was used only in OF NAMES FOR
empire. However, he was killed luxury objects, such as in the
soon after, and the empire shrank decoration of this box from
back for about a century.
In Egypt, the Middle Kingdom
Acemhoyek. Later, as
technology developed, iron
(see 2000–1850 BCE) was waning was used to create superior IN ANCIENT
weapons. Though the Hittites
traded iron goods, they kept
this technology secret for
about 300 years. Around the title “pharaoh,” meaning
1200 BCE, ironworking spread “great house.” A succession of
to Greece, and then to warrior kings campaigned to
Central Europe by c. 750 BCE— expand Egypt’s boundaries
the dawn of the Iron Age. once more. Tuthmosis I
(r. 1504–1492 BCE) drove the
Nubians back in the south and
by 1670 BCE, partly due to erratic recaptured Sinai and parts of
floods in the Nile. As regional Syria and Palestine. Under
governors became more Tuthmosis III (r. 1479–1425 BCE),
powerful, civil war broke out. Egypt controlled a strip along the
Outsiders soon took advantage Mediterranean coast and north of
of the unrest. The Nubians the Euphrates (see p.33). Mask
won back lands that the The conquered states paid huge of gold
Egyptians had taken earlier annual tributes to Egypt, a part of German
Man and beast archaeologist
(see 2000–1850 BCE). In 1650 BCE, which was spent building one of
The Hittite Empire was known for its Heinrich
bronze craftsmanship. Bronze the Hyksos from the Levant the world’s largest religious sites Schliemann found this
weapons and artifacts fetched a high seized Lower Egypt, but at Karnak and the impressive funerary mask at a grave
price. This statuette of a man and a Upper Egypt remained under the mortuary temple of Queen in Mycenae, and claimed it
horse was probably a commission. control of Egyptian kings. Hatshepsut (r. 1473–1458 BCE). belonged to King Agamemnon.

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1400–1300 BCE

Tutankhamun was buried with fabulous treasure. This detail from the
pharaoh’s throne shows him being anointed by his wife Ankhesenamun.

probably called themselves Black Sea IN c. 1352 BCE, AMENHOTEP IV, Since the 1570s BCE, Egypt’s
Ahhiyawa. They had migrated TH R ACE a religious reformer, became pharaohs had been buried in
from the Balkans or Anatolia IA Egypt’s pharaoh. He broke with rock-cut tombs in the Valley
D ON Sea of
about 500 years earlier. Their A CE the traditional religion, with its of the Kings, on the west bank
lands were a patchwork of small pantheon of gods, and initiated of the Nile. Rulers hoped their
kingdoms, each later dominated Lemnos the worship of a single god, Aten, tombs would be safe from
by a palace-citadel such as the Iolcus Lesbos
or sun-disk. He changed his name robbers, but almost all the
ones at Mycenae, Tiryns, and Spor Aegean Anatolia to Akhenaten, meaning “living tombs were robbed of their
Pylos. They spread their influence Gla Euboea Sea spirit of Aten,” and founded a new rich goods. However, in 1922,
Ionian Orchomenus
through trade. After the collapse Islands Gulf of Cor Thebes Chios capital between Thebes and British archaeologist Howard
in t h
of the Minoan Empire c. 1450 BCE, Athens Memphis. He named it Akhetaten, Carter found Tutankhamun’s
Mycenae Dendra
the Mycenaeans took over several Argos Aegina
meaning “horizon of Aten.” tomb virtually intact. The
sites formerly occupied by the Peloponnese Cyclades Akhenaten’s religious reforms shrine room had four gilded

Ionian Menelaion
Minoans, including Knossos. Pylos were believed to have been shrines, holding the king’s
Sea Vapheio Melos an

Phylakopi es
After c. 1400 BCE, they also took e unpopular, especially with the coffin and mummy with a solid
over Minoan trade networks influential priestly elite. After his gold mask. The other rooms
and established settlements Sea of Crete death in c. 1336 BCE, his son contained jewelry, furniture,
on Rhodes, Kos, and the Chania Knossos Tutankhamun ascended the golden statues, and musical
Sea Crete
Anatolian mainland. Phaistos
throne at the age of nine. He instruments.
The Mycenaeans restored the old gods
Aegean civilizations KEY
inherited Minoan arts Around 1450 BCE Mycenaean and abandoned the new
Mycenaean site
and crafts, adapting influence spread throughout the capital. Tutankhamun is
Mycenaean major palace
the Linear A script Aegean, including to several sites that believed to have died
to write an early had been part of the Minoan Empire. under mysterious
form of Greek circumstances at 18,
known as the the Hurrians, Hittites, Elamites, by defensive walls. Kings and and was hastily buried
Linear B script. Egyptians, and Kassites. In the nobles were buried in tombs, in a minor tomb. It was
They were great 1570s BCE, the Kassites had which held fabulous grave goods. thought for years that
traders, and gained control of Babylon. The Shang capital moved several Tutankhamun died of a
ventured out to Sicily However, by 1450 BCE, the Hittite times during this period. Shang blow to the head, but
and Italy. A ship New Kingdom was growing society was believed to be well the latest evidence
believed to be of in influence, partly due to an organized and extremely suggests he died of
Canaanite origin, alliance with Egypt. Around this hierarchical. Writing began blood poisoning after
wrecked off Uluburun on time, the Mitanni dominated Syria, around 1900 BCE. Most examples breaking his leg in a
the coast of Turkey, was but by the 1400s, the Hittites were of early writing took the form of chariot crash while out
found to contain tin from Iran fighting for control of the region. oracle bones, attesting to the hunting in the desert.
or Afghanistan, copper and In China, the Shang civilization Shang rulers’ practice of
pottery from Cyprus, ivory and (see 1850–1790 BCE) flourished consulting their ancestors on
jewelry from Egypt, and around 1500 BCE, with its rulers important decisions. Questions Sun worship
Mycenaean swords. dominating a large area of concerning the future were Akhenaten instituted the
The late Bronze Age was a central China. However, the inscribed on the bone of an ox or worship of the sun-disk
Aten. In this relief carving
time of unrest in Western Asia. Shang had to regularly fend off on a turtle shell, which was then found at Akhetaten
From 1550–1400 BCE, there was threats to their kingdom from struck with a hot metal tool. (modern el-Amarna), he
a struggle between various nomadic tribes to the north. The way the bone cracked was is seen worshipping the
powers in the region, including Shang capitals were surrounded believed to provide the answer. sun with his wife Nefertiti.

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o E su m Br nkh eligi ten
m s ign ith he na ta r ta
M de co Re w hip t the Tu he
e s s Ak
tak r
wo tak
1300–1200 BCE 1200–1100 BCE

The facade of the temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel features four colossal seated The boulders used to make these walls, now in ruins, at Mycenae on the Greek
statues of the pharaoh, but the statue second from left has crumbled. mainland were so huge, later civilizations believed they were built by giants.

TOWARD THE END OF THE 2ND Ancient propaganda BETWEEN 1250 AND ABOUT 1050 could not prevent them from
MILLENNIUM BCE, the eastern A detail from the temple BCE, many of the powers that colonizing the Levant.
Mediterranean and Western Asia of Ramesses II at Abu had dominated Western Asia for Around 1200 BCE, the
were a mosaic of empires, which Simbel shows the king centuries went into decline, and Mycenaean kingdoms entered a
firing an arrow, taking
comprised Egypt, Babylonia, Elam, on the Hittite army some disappeared altogether. The time of upheaval, a result of both
Assyria, and the Hittites in Anatolia. single-handed at the eastern Mediterranean entered internal disintegration and
Borders fluctuated as each kingdom Battle of Qadesh. a time of turmoil, and many external threats. The defenses of
strove to gain ascendancy over its coastal cities were laid waste by many Mycenean palaces were
neighbors through conquest or unknown invaders—written strengthened. Records at Pylos
diplomacy. In war and peace, vital the most famous was records of the period give few show the inhabitants feared attack
trade routes, through which tin and the Battle of Qadesh clues as to their identity. First to from the sea. By 1100 BCE, most of
copper for bronze reached the (c. 1274 BCE). Although succumb were the Hittites, whose the Mycenaean palaces had been
region, remained intact. Ramesses claimed capital Hattusas was sacked sacked and abandoned. This
A frequent flashpoint for conflict victory at Qadesh, the and abandoned c. 1200 BCE. triggered the so-called Dark Age
was the Levant (modern Syria and battle is believed to By c. 1180 BCE, Hittite possessions of Greece, when writing fell out of
Lebanon), which Egypt had lost to have been inconclusive, in the Levant were lost and the use, not to be reintroduced until
the Hittites following the reign and the Hittites held on empire fragmented. the Homeric age (see 800 BCE).
of Akhenaten (see 1350 BCE). In the to the region. These conflicts were most likely In the late Bronze Age, parts of
13th century BCE, Pharaoh Seti I and In 1259 BCE, after instigated by the waves of migrants Europe came to be dominated by
his son Ramesses II campaigned further campaigns in known collectively as the Sea the Urnfield Culture—named
to win it back. Ramesses’ 67-year Syria, Ramesses tried Peoples. These warlike peoples after the practice of cremating the
reign (r. 1279–1213 BCE) was a different tactic, and came from many different areas, dead and burying the remains in
negotiated a pioneering peace The late 2nd millennium BCE including Sicily, Sardinia, Greece, funerary urns, sometimes
treaty with the new Hittite king,
Hattusilis III. Ramesses also took
two Hittite princesses in marriage
saw the resurgence of Ashur,
in what is now called the Middle
Assyrian Empire (1350–
Libya, and Anatolia. Whatever
their origins, their movements
through the eastern Mediterranean
accompanied by rich grave goods.
This culture originated in the
Danube region in 1300 BCE, and
(he had about seven wives in total). 1000 BCE). Following the death of in c. 1200–1100 BCE led to attacks spread to Italy and central and
WITHOUT EQUAL, Following the treaty, Ramesses Shamshi-Adad in 1781 BCE (see on Cyprus, Egypt, Anatolia, and eastern Europe in the following

VICTORIOUS IN kept up a friendly correspondence
with the Hittite ruler, which was
1850 BCE), Ashur had become
a vassal first of Babylon, then
Canaan and Syria in the Levant.
In 1178 BCE, the Egyptian pharaoh
Between 1200 and 700 BCE iron
SIGHT OF THE recorded on clay tablets in of Mitanni. A revival of Ashur’s Ramesses III drove the Sea technology spread northward
WHOLE WORLD. Akkadian cuneiform script.
Ramesses also embarked
fortunes began under Ashur- Peoples from Lower Egypt, but from Greece to Central Europe.
uballit I (r. 1363–1328 BCE), who
Inscription commemorating the
victory of Ramesses II at Qadesh
on an extensive program of
monument-building. On Egypt’s
southern border with Nubia, he
constructed the magnificent
broke free of Mitannian rule and
carved out a kingdom in northern
Iraq. His later successors,
Shalmaneser I and Tukulti-

a time of stability and prosperity temple of Abu Simbel. He founded Ninurta I, continued to gain
for Egypt. Through a combination
of war, diplomacy, and strategic
a new capital at Per-Ramesses in
Lower Egypt, although Thebes in
territory, expanding the kingdom’s
borders west to conquer eastern
marriage, Ramesses sought Upper Egypt remained an Mitanni and briefly, from 1225– SEA, NONE BEING ABLE TO
to extend Egyptian influence to important center. West of Thebes 1216 BCE, southeast to Babylonia.
Western Asia. In the 1270s BCE, he he built a vast mortuary temple, In the Aegean, the Mycenaean
fought a series of wars with the which doubled as a palace, court, palace-kingdoms of the Greek
Hittite king, Muwattalis II, of which and center of learning. mainland continued to thrive. An inscription by Ramesses II (r. 1279–1213), referring to the Sea Peoples

lis ign e f
E ra re ypt vín th re n o t’s
0 BC
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E c.  ltur an A CE
O ex c.  mes eat 153 80 col
Fa read s Ba ndia cu ruvi 0 B in M Ra t gr (to 1 11 e
of 121 20 es c.  pir
sp nge rn I (to Pe   1
c. erg las rts Em
Ga rthe em sta

ld d al 50 ses
fie an pit 11
rn es in ns tle ca yed s c.  efen ting
E U g
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BC y p e e itt est St vant an dic tac
00 em an ion Eg t th Qad EH s d E ae , in at
13 re le D reg CE a of BC a BC L the
en ned r of
c ltu idd 4 B ght 0 s 00 e y s c
cu m
7 0
12 att
  12 in th ed b ple My the fea
12 fi
c.  of H c .
eo g
c.  tites id
ra a P en
Se sr

1100–1000 BCE
Krishna Yajur Veda

Iron rapidly replaced bronze in heads clad in helmets. They also THE CLOSE OF THE 2ND MILLENNIUM In China, a new dynasty replaced sacred writings. Sanskrit, an Indo-
tools and weapons, signaling the established long-distance trade SAW MAJOR CHANGES in the the Shang in 1027 BCE, when King European language related to
end of the Bronze Age. routes. Meanwhile, other cultures power politics of West Asia. Wu of the Zhou defeated the last Iranian and almost all European
In Mesoamerica, the region’s were emerging, such as at Cerro In 1070 BCE, the Egyptian New Shang ruler, Di-Xin. The Zhou languages, is also the ancestor
first great civilization, the Olmec, Sechin, in what is now Peru. Kingdom ended and Egypt dynasty was to rule China for of modern languages such as
was emerging in the lowlands of entered a time of unrest called 700 years. This long era is usually Hindi and Urdu.
Mexico’s southern Gulf coast. The the Third Intermediate Period, divided into two periods: the Sacred writings called the
Stone warrior
Olmecs built ceremonial centers, Monumental carvings from temples which lasted until 747 BCE (see Western and Eastern Zhou. Vedas were transmitted orally
including San Lorenzo, constructed at Cerro Sechin on the Peruvian 800–700 BCE). Historians believe During the first era, the Zhou capital in Sanskrit for many centuries.
temples and houses on earthen coast show warriors, torture victims, that the power of the pharaohs was Zongzhou. This was a time Although the Vedas are largely
mounds, and carved huge stone and human sacrifices. had been eroded by a priestly elite of prosperity and strong central religious writings and hymns,
who had gained control of many control. Zhou territory was divided the geographical information that
areas. By 1000 BCE, all of the into fiefs held by trusted noblemen, they contain not only describes
territories won by New Kingdom in return for military allegiance. the gradual spread of farmers
pharaohs had been lost. But many aspects of Chinese and pastoralists from the Punjab
In Mesopotamia, there were tradition already present in the to the Ganges basin, but also
frequent wars between the Shang period continued in the Zhou, gives some information about
Babylonians, Assyrians, and including ancestor worship and the conflicts with other groups, and
Elamites; the region was also use of oracle bones for divination. local life at the time. For example,
subjected to devastating raids by Meanwhile, in Japan, the Jomon the division of society into
Aramaean nomads from the west. culture, named after the cord varnas or castes is described
Meanwhile, other powers were patterns (jomon) that decorate its in the Vedas, first appearing in
rising in the region. A Semitic- pottery, continued. The Jomon Book X of Rigveda, although there
speaking people, who called people were still hunter-gatherers, is nothing in the text to suggest
themselves Canaanites, had albeit prosperous and sedentary. that the system was hereditary
inhabited the Levant for centuries, In northern India, small groups at the time.
living in city-states that controlled of nomadic pastoralists had been
the surrounding territory. They migrating into the Ganges basin
were skilled seafarers and played from Central
a major role in international trade. Asia since
By 1100 BCE, Canaanite port cities the 1500s BCE.
such as Arwad, Byblos, Tyre, and By the
Sidon were expanding their 1100s BCE, most
operations, establishing trading had begun to
posts and colonies throughout the settle and cultivate
eastern Mediterranean. They crops. They spoke
traded cedarwood from Lebanon, Sanskrit, which became
glass- and ivory-ware, metal ores, the language of early Indian
and, most important, an expensive
purple dye made from murex
shellfish. It was this luxury
Mark of a culture
commodity that caused them to In this example of late-Jomon
be known by their more familiar pottery, the bowl and stand bear
Greek name, the Phoenicians, the distinctive rope patterns that
after phoinix, Greek for “purple.” give the Jomon period its name.

n ds
ea ee
na k cc
yce Dar s t of
e u
s e
d gin tar edi id
E M an
av f th es)
BC s be rm ypt E D g o elit
00 end ece BC e C i n a
11 69 nt g B
06 s k Isr
c.  riod Gre 10 ird I in E 10 ul a ws (
pe e of Th riod Sa bre
Ag Pe He

ing has f 00 lish
K 10
E g o
kin te c.  stab und
27 g da ule s e aro ean
10 Shan an to r an ts n
s dM n n ici por erra
im ite ave oe nd dit
cla forfe He Ph es a Me
i e
lon th
3 0 0 0 –7 0 0 BCE E A R LY C I V I L I Z AT I O N S

knob is part of
neck is circled locking device
by a collar

Decorated box of Perpauty

c. 1370 BCE
This sycamore box belonging
to a man called Perpauty may
have held linen. All four sides
are painted with scenes. This
side shows Perpauty and his
Perpauty and children bringing wife being offered gifts by their
his wife offerings son and three daughters.

Duck-shaped flask
Cat figurine Statue with stele c. 1700 BCE
c. 600 BCE c. 1360 BCE This jar is carved in the shape of a
This copper alloy figurine sits on a A carved figure representing a high priest duck, which appears to be trussed
wooden base. Cats were linked with of Amun holds a stele, or carved slab. These and plucked. It probably held cosmetic
the goddess Bastet, who protected slabs were used as grave or commemorative paste, such as eye-paint, which was
the pharaoh. A hole through the markers. The inscription is a hymn to the Sun likely removed and applied using a
nose originally held a ring. god and lists local dignitaries. stopper/applicator, now lost.

material is the rare

blue stone anhydrite


Artifacts manufactured over some 2,000 years bear Mummiform shabti

c. 1300 BCE
witness to the skills of Egyptian craft workers. They also This large shabti figure
was carved from wood.
reflect Egypt’s wealth and its trade network, through The tools the figure carries
which ebony, lapis lazuli, and turquoise were imported. are traditional symbols of
kingship, while the scarab
represents the god Khepri.
Many of the objects shown here were used in daily life by well-to-do
scarab ornament
Egyptians. They reflect belief in the afterlife and the practice of burying on chest
possessions that it was believed would be used by the dead person’s
spirit in the afterlife. The ruling classes were buried with great wealth,
but almost all of their tombs were stripped of their riches either in
antiquity or more recently.
mask of cartonnage—a combination
of plaster and linen

details such
as eyes are
in paler

1292–1190 BCE
Statuettes of servant-figures called shabtis lapis lazuli
were commonly placed in tombs. The Egyptians inlay
believed they would come alive to serve the
dead person’s spirit in the life to come.

Funerary mask Mummified jackal or dog

c. 1500 BCE c. 600 BCE
This mask would have been placed over the head Jackals and, from the 8th century BCE
of a mummy. The Egyptians mummified bodies onward, also dogs were mummified in
because the deceased spirit could not survive honor of the jackal-headed god Anubis,
unless there was a body for it to return to. who presided over funerals and embalmings.

Necklaces Ear studs and earring

c. 1550–1069 BCE c. 1550–1069 BCE
Egyptian craftsmen had access Once the basic shapes for these
to many semiprecious stones and studs and earring were made,
precious metals. Necklaces were strands of glass in a contrasting
worn in daily life and also buried color were wound around
with the dead. them. The studs required large
perforations in the wearer’s lobes.

backing for
Wooden comb
c. 300 BCE
This double-sided comb has a
gold band row of longer and shorter teeth.
Many Egyptians had short hair handle and
purple amethyst and wore wigs. Combs were backing made
used to keep both natural hair of ebony
and wigs tidy.
ibex symbolizes grace
and mastery over the
natural world
Cosmetic spoon
c. 1360 BCE
This spoon for cosmetic paste
was carved from schist in the
shape of an ibex, with its head
bent over its back, so that its
straight horns touch the bowl.

disk representing sun

Amulet Mirror handle

912–343 BCE c. 1360 BCE
The wedjat eye symbolizes This hardwood mirror setting
the eye of the god Horus. This originally held a polished
charm was placed on mummies bronze mirror disk. The handle
to protect the dead person’s is carved in the shape of a
spirit in the afterlife. It also papyrus column topped with
symbolized regeneration. the god Bes—a popular deity.

Male figure amulet Frog amulets

c. 2200 BCE c. 1360 BCE
This golden charm shows a Frogs were a symbol of life
kneeling male god clasping and fertility. Women wore
two palm ribs. He is probably frog amulets for luck. These
the god Heh, who symbolized charms are made of blue
eternity. The palm ribs are faience (pottery) with details
notched, representing years. picked out in gold.

inlay held charm may

within cells have been part
of gold of a necklace

Scarab pectoral Winged scarab

c. 1361–52 BCE 644–322 BCE
This magnificent chest ornament Scarabs were common lucky charms.
represents the scarab god Khepri The scarab beetle was a symbol for
rolling the red sun-disk. It was found rebirth and was worn as jewelry
in the tomb of King Tutankhamun. in ancient Egypt.

1000–900 BCE 900–800 BCE

In the mid-10th century BCE , during the reign of King Solomon, Megiddo (in The jaguar featured in many Mesoamerican and South American religions.
modern Israel) was an important Israelite fortress and administrative center. Here it is depicted in a stone carving from Chavín de Huántar.

IN THE 10TH CENTURY BCE, THE were skilled engineers and

PERIOD OF DECLINE in the major architects who built canals and
powers of Western Asia continued. leveled slopes for farming and
Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria had In the 9th century BCE, King construction. The main
weakened, enabling the rise of the Shalmaneser III of Assyria settlement, Chavín de
short-lived but historically greatly expanded his empire, Huántar, was high in the
significant Kingdom of Israel. with campaigns against Andes, and seems to have
Grave goods
The Israelites were Semitic- Mesopotamian tribes, Israel been a pilgrimage center for a
This Iron Age brooch
speaking pastoralists who, and Judah, Syria, Urartu, and cult of supernatural beings that was discovered in a grave at Hallstatt
according to the Bible, migrated Anatolia. This black limestone were part-human, part-animal. in Austria. The type of jewelry
into the land of Canaan in the obelisk commemorates his The main god, the “Staff God,” is found suggests that a woman was
1200s BCE. There, they came into deeds and those of his usually depicted with fangs. buried there.
conflict with the local Philistines commander-in-chief, Dayyan- In Europe, iron was gradually
and Canaanites. Around 1000 BCE Assur. It details, in cuneiform, replacing bronze as the metal of plied the western Mediterranean.
King David (r. 1006–965 BCE) the enforced tributes paid by choice for tools and weapons. The Colonies were set up in Cadiz, in
united the Israelite tribes and the people he conquered. area around Hallstatt in Austria Spain, on the Balearic Islands,
established his capital at became a center for an early Iron and, most notably, on the North
Jerusalem. David’s son Solomon Age culture that developed from African coast at Carthage (in
(r. c. 965–928 BCE) increased Israel and, later, Judah became THE OLMEC CULTURE CONTINUED the Urnfield culture (see 1200 BCE). modern Tunisia). Through this
Israelite territory and built a part of the Assyrian Empire. TO DEVELOP IN MESOAMERICA Hallstatt chieftains dominated trading network, the Phoenician
magnificent palace and temple in Meanwhile, Assyria began to in the 9th century BCE. After local salt mining and ironworking. alphabet became known
the capital, but on his death the reemerge as a major power in San Lorenzo was destroyed They lived in hilltop forts and were throughout the Mediterranean.
kingdom split in two. Eventually Mesopotamia. King Ashur-dan II in c. 900 BCE, La Venta to the buried with rich grave goods. In Western Asia, the Neo-
(r. 934–912 BCE) boosted agriculture, northeast became the main During the 9th century BCE, the Assyrian Empire began to
bringing prosperity. His successor Olmec center. This larger Phoenicians were becoming a expand, and, one by one, Israel,
Etched in gold
This golden plaque showing the Adad-nirari II increased Assyria’s settlement was dominated by major power in the Mediterranean. Judah, and the small states of
protective wedjat eye symbol dates territory, regaining lands that had a 111ft (34m) high pyramid, the Their trading ships, previously nearby Syria and Phoenicia were
from the reign of Psusennes I of the been held by the Middle Assyrian forerunner of Mayan temples. confined to the eastern sea, now brought under Assyrian control.
21st dynasty, when Egypt was divided. Empire in the 13th century BCE. The Olmecs also devised a script
of glyphs—the first in the region.
Their influence spread across EUROPE
Mesoamerica, impacting on other
cultures that were starting to colonies Black Sea
emerge at this time—the Phoenician
Zapotecs and the Maya. city-states Athens Khorsabad
Corinth Nimrud
In eastern North America, the Greek Gadir Miletus
Syracuse Sparta Al Mina
Adena culture was developing colonies Carthage Me
dite Byblos
Greek rranean
in the Ohio Valley. It was Sea Babylon
city-states Jerusalem
characterized by ritual earthworks Tanis
Emerging AFRICA Bast
and burial mounds containing Etruscan
objects of fine craftsmanship. city-states
Far to the south, the Chavín Mediterranean region
culture had appeared in the This map of the Mediterranean region in the 8th century BCE shows
Peruvian Andes by c. 1200 BCE and the colonies established by the dominant civilizations of the period,
spread to the coast. The Chavín including the Phoenicians and Greeks.

vid es III
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800–700 BCE

In 705 BCE, the Assyrian capital moved to Nineveh. This stone relief shows the Assyrian
king and his queen feasting in the gardens of the royal palace there.

ASSYRIA CONTINUED ITS POLICY In China, the Zhou capital moved been embroiled in a Kushite statue
OF AGGRESSION through the 8th east to Luoyang in 770 BCE, destructive civil war and This alabaster statue dates
century BCE, conquering rival marking the start of the earlier was now divided into from the period of Kushite
states in Western Asia and part of the Eastern Zhou era, small states. In the 8th rule in Egypt. Amenirdis I,
sister of Shabaka (r. c. 716–
reducing them to provinces. which lasted until about century BCE, the Kushite
702 BCE), is shown holding
Assyrian success was based 480 BCE (see 500 BCE). Royal ruler of Nubia to the a flail—a traditional
on a disciplined, technically control had weakened, as the south, Piye (r. 747– symbol of Egyptian rule.
advanced army and an efficient lords who held large fiefdoms had 716 BCE), conquered
bureaucracy. Conquered peoples grown more powerful. Now both Upper and
had to pay costly tributes, and central control disintegrated, and Lower Egypt, and for their own language,
Ritual container
revolts were ruthlessly crushed. Zhou smiths were highly skilled rival warlords fought one another. united them under and not long after, Homer’s
Particularly troublesome nations metalworkers. This bronze bowl Despite the chaos, this era was a Kushite rule. epic poems the Iliad and
suffered forced deportations— dates from the 8th century BCE, the time of technical and cultural In the Mediterranean, the Odyssey—hitherto
large numbers of people were time of the Eastern Zhou dynasty. advancement. Iron tools increased Phoenician influence transmitted orally—were
resettled in Assyria. efficiency in agriculture and food continued to spread, probably written down.
Following a period of weak rule Iran and Anatolia, conquering production. Populations and cities as the city of Carthage In the 8th century BCE,
in the first half of the 8th century Babylon and, in 714 BCE, defeating grew, and philosophy, the arts, in North Africa grew central Italy was a mosaic
BCE, Tiglath-Pileser III (r. 744– the Armenian state of Urartu. He and literature began to develop. powerful. Greece, of small states ruled by the
727 BCE) recouped Assyria’s also defeated the Israelites and In Egypt, the unrest of the Third meanwhile, was starting dominant Etruscans—Italy’s
losses. His successor Sargon II transported the “ten lost tribes” of Intermediate Period continued. to emerge from the Dark first indigenous civilization—
(r. 722–704 BCE) campaigned in Israel to northern Mesopotamia. Since 850 BCE, the country had Age that had followed the and Italic tribes such as the
Mycenaeans’ downfall. Latins, Umbrians, and
City-states or poleis were Sabines. Rome is thought
forming on the Greek to have been founded by
mainland, centered on the Latin chief Romulus
hilltop citadels. To in 753 BCE. In its early
increase their territory, the days, the city, built on
poleis founded colonies seven hills, was ruled by various
around the shores of the Aegean. peoples, including the Etruscans,
Although rivalry between cities Latins, and Sabines.
was often intense, a distinct
Greek identity and culture
was emerging. All Greeks were
identified as “Hellenes.” In 776 BCE
the first pan-Hellenic games were
held in honor of Zeus at Olympia.
By the mid-700s BCE the Greeks had

adapted the Phoenician alphabet
Twin discovery
This painting by Charles de La Fosse ROMAN
depicts the legend of Romulus and
Remus, who were abandoned as RACE.
babies and suckled by a she-wolf,
before being rescued by shepherds. Virgil, from Aeneid 1:33

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700 BCE–599 CE
Culturally dynamic civilizations emerged in Greece, Rome,
Persia, India, and China, marking the beginning of the
Classical Age. The impact of Classical developments in
science, art, and politics is still felt to this day.
700–676 BCE 675–651 BCE
Livy, from Histories book I, xxi, on Tullus Hostilius, third King of Rome

Pyramids from the cemetery at Nuri, Sudan, which was the burial site of the

Napatan and Meroitic kings from around 650 BCE .

771 BCE, and the Western Zhou
capital was transferred east to
NUMBER in 664–663 BCE to defeat the
Egyptians who had rebelled
Chengzhou. From there, the OF against Assyrian rule, and to push EGYPT.
Eastern Zhou dynasty presided KINGS Assyrian control as far south as

over the fragmentation of China Thebes (modern Luxor). This Ashurbanipal's account of the conquest of Egypt, 664 BCE
into as many as 148 states. From was not the last rebellion against
around 700 BCE the Zhou were the Assyrians—only ten years
ruled by puppet-emperors, while In Italy, the city-state of Rome later, the vassal king of Saïs, The new ruler, Cypselus (reign assisted Psammetichus I of
real power lay with the ba (“senior was beginning to acquire an urban Psammetichus I (r. 664–610 BCE), c. 657–627 BCE) relied on force of Egypt in his revolt against the
one”) among nearby states. heart, and the first forum was revolted against his Assyrian personality rather than divine Assyrians. He also adopted an
Under Qi Huan Gong (r. 685– constructed. The second king masters, driving them out and sanction, and established a aggressive stance towards his
643 BCE), the state of Qi had of Rome, Numa Pompilius founding the 26th Dynasty, under dynasty under which Corinth neighbors, the Ionian Greeks of
supremacy. After Huan Gong’s (r. 716–674 BCE) is believed to have which Egypt’s independence was enjoyed a seven-decade period Miletus and Smyrna.
death the competition for power established the main Roman restored. After the final collapse of dominance, creating colonies According to Japanese tradition,
between his five sons weakened priesthoods and a calendar. of Assyrian power, in 609 BCE, throughout the western the first emperor, Jimmu Tenno,
Qi, and Jin Wen Gong (r. 685– In the Near East, the Assyrians Egypt was able to establish a Mediterranean. a descendant of the sun goddess
643 BCE), the ruler of Jin, rose to continued their expansion, foothold in Palestine under On the fringes of the Greek Amaterasu, ascended to the
become ba. By the end of the confronting Egypt, whose Pharaoh Necho II (610–595 BCE). world, in western Asia Minor, the throne in 660 BCE. The stories
century, power in China alternated intermittent support for rebels In Greece, the rise to kingdom of Lydia was increasing of his migration from southern
among the states of Qi, Jin, against Assyrian rule in Syria had preeminence of a number of city in power under Gyges (685– Honshu eastward to establish
Qin, and Chu. long been a source of tension. In states, notably Athens, Sparta, 647 BCE), its first great king. He his kingdom near Nara are
671 BCE, the Assyrian ruler and Corinth, began. In Corinth, allied with Ashurbanipal of legendary, but may echo real
Esarhaddon invaded, capturing a new type of ruler, the “tyrant,” Assyria to see off a joint threat events of the Japanese Yayoi
the Egyptian royal capital of emerged with the overthrow of to their two lands by Cimmerian period after 100 BCE, when tribal
Memphis. However, Assyrian the Bacchiadae kings in 658 BCE. raiders in 668–665 BCE, but then chieftains began to consolidate
control over Egypt was weak, their territories.
and the Nubian pharaoh Taharqa ASHURBANIPAL (r. 668–627 BCE) The third king of Rome, Tullus
drove the invaders out. Hostilius (r. 673–642 BCE) was
The Etruscans expanded Ashurbanipal initially shared more martially inclined than his
southward from modern rule over Assyria with his precedessor Numa Pompilius, and
Tuscany and Umbria around brother, Shamash-shuma-ukin.

700 BCE. Their language remains After defeating his brother’s
undeciphered, but lavish tombs revolt in 648 BCE he greatly
indicate a rich material culture. expanded the Assyrian domains.
During their expansion, the As well as annexing Egypt, he
Etruscans founded cities such attacked Elam, sacking its
as Capua, but came into conflict capital, Susa, in 647 BCE. His THE NUMBER OF
with Greek colonies and with
Rome. Although more powerful
latter years saw none of the
military successes of his early
Nubian Pharoah at first, the Etruscans were reign. At his death a dispute UNCOVERED IN
Taharqa ruled Egypt for 19 years
before an Assyrian invasion forced
politically disunited, and a long
series of wars with the Romans
between his two sons further
weakened the Assyrian Empire.
him to return to Nubia in 671 BCE. turned against them. LIBRARY
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650–601 BCE

A lion frieze from the Processional Way in Babylon, which was built around 600 BCE and ran
through the heart of the city to the Ishtar Gate.

THE ASSYRIANS HAD FINALLY to them and the Scythian King 600 BCE. New cities were in the 8th century BCE. The
CONQUERED BABYLON in 691 BCE, Bartatua was even sufficiently established as far west as Spain, hereditary monarchy was
MEDES partially destroying the city. influential to be given an Assyrian and around the Black Sea coast. replaced by nine “archons,”
LYDIA Harran
Carchemish Khorsabad Reconstruction work began under princess as his wife. The alliance In Greece itself, the city-state of chosen annually. Shortly after a
Cyprus ASSYRIA Esarhaddon (680–669 BCE), and by with Assyria survived into the Sparta was establishing its damaging popular uprising by

PHOENICIA BABYLONIA 652 BCE Babylon had recovered reign of his son Madyes, but dominance in the Peloponnese. A Cylon in 632 BCE, Athens received

Se rran Tyre

Damascus Babylon ELAM

a ea its importance and became the around 615 BCE the Scythians defeat by the city-state of Argos, its first law code, drafted by Draco
center for a major revolt led by switched sides and played a key in 669 BCE, was followed by in 621 BCE. The Draconian law
MOAB Shamash-shuma-ukin against role in Assyria’s destruction. military reforms and victory was later known for the severity of
his younger brother Ashurbanipal. Their Median subjects soon turned against the Messenians (660– the punishments it prescribed.
It took four years of war to on them and around 590 BCE the 650 BCE). By 600 BCE, Sparta had To the south of Egypt the state
The Assyrian Empire
From its core around Assur and suppress the Babylonians and Scythians retreated north. conquered almost all the of Napata became a power of the
Nineveh, the Assyrian empire grew to their Elamite allies, and the In the Greek world, there was a southern Peloponnese and first order, conquering Egypt
encompass Babylonia, Media, Elam, fighting drained Assyria’s ability to growing movement to establish established a stratified social under Piankhy (751–716 BCE) and
Urartu, Syria, and Egypt. hold on to its empire. By 630 BCE, colonies in the Mediterranean. system. controlling it under after the death
Assyria had lost Egypt and Among the earliest were in Italy, Sparta’s future rival, Athens, of Taharqa (690–664 BCE).
led the war against neighboring Palestine, and in 626 BCE the including Syracuse, founded gradually united the area
Alba Longa, which ultimately led Babylonians regained their around 733 BCE. In North Africa, surrounding Attica under its rule
to that city’s destruction and the independence. By 616 BCE Greek settlers founded Cyrene (in
deportation of its population to Babylon was strong enough to Libya) in about 630 BCE, and
Rome, in the first major Roman invade Assyria, aided by the Massilia (Marseilles) around
expansion. The fourth king, Medes (whose base was in
Ancus Marcius (641–617 BCE), northwestern Iran). In 612 BCE
expanded Roman territory toward the Babylonians, Medes,
the coast, and founded Rome’s and Scythians sacked
great port of Ostia at the mouth the Assyrian capital of
of the Tiber. His successor, Nineveh. The
Tarquinius Priscus (616–578 BCE) Assyrian empire
was the fifth king of Rome and one crumbled.
of the city’s greatest kings. He A remnant of the
came from an Etruscan Assyrian army
background, a sign of the high regrouped and
level of Etruscan influence over established a small
the early city of Rome. Tarquinius kingdom around Harran,
Priscus won a series of victories but by 609 BCE this, too, stylized
over the Sabines, the Latins, had fallen. body
and the Etruscans, who all The Scythians
competed with Rome for formed part of a
dominance over central Italy. He is culture of nomadic
also said to have established the horsemen which held
Scythian stag
public games in Rome. a large territory on the
The flowing lines and realistic
steppes north of the depiction of the stag’s muscled
Caucasus from around flanks in this late 7th century shield
800 BCE. In 652 BCE they ornament are typical of the art
forced the Medes to submit of the Scythians.

n n
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600–551 BCE 550–501 BCE

A medieval view of the city of Jerusalem, which was captured by the Babylonians in 597 BCE . It was taken again, Central Asia became a stronghold of Buddhist beliefs. These cave paintings
and largely destroyed, 10 years later. After both sieges many of its inhabitants were deported to Babylon. in Dunhuang, China, illustrate a variety of Buddhist parables.

HAVING HELPED DESTROY THE Under the last Median king, The powerful city-state of Athens CYRUS, RULER OF THE SMALL
ASSYRIAN EMPIRE, Nabopolassar Astyages (r. 584–549 BCE), Median experienced reforms under Solon KINGDOM OF PERSIS (also called
(r. 626–605 BCE), first king of the armies campaigned in Azerbaijan about 600 BCE, notably a law code Pars) in the west of Persia (Iran),
neo-Babylonian dynasty, and controlled land as far west as that protected the property rights revolted against his Median
embellished the city of Babylon. Lydia (Turkey). But by the 550s BCE, of the poor, forbade debt-slavery, overlords in 559 BCE. By 550 BCE
His son Nebuchadnezzar (r. 605– Media was under pressure from and moderated the more extreme he had conquered the Median
562 BCE) defeated the Egyptians in the Babylonians to the south and parts of the Draconian laws capital of Ecbatana and
605 BCE, repaired Babylon’s main the new power of Persia. (see 650-601). Around 560 BCE, overthrown their ruler, King
ziggurat, and ordered the building The kingdom of Judah had long Pisistratus seized power and began Astyages. Afraid of the increasing
of the famous “Hanging Gardens.” acted as a block to Assyrian and to rule as a tyrant (dictator). Driven power of Persia, the Lydians
The last neo-Babylonian king, Babylonian expansion to the west. out once, he returned in 547 BCE under King Croesus opposed
Nabonidus (r. 556–539 BCE), In 597 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar took and established a stable regime. Cyrus, but he struck west and
moved his royal court to the Jerusalem and deposed King The Greek city of Miletus saw the in 547 BCE, on the Halys River,
Arabian oasis of Tema, but Jehoiakim. The king they installed beginnings of philosophical defeated the Lydian army and
discontent rose among the in his place, Zedekiah, turned thought from about 600 BCE. annexed western Asia Minor. Darius the Great
Babylonians during his reign. against the Babylonians, and in Thales (born c. 624 BCE) tried In 539 BCE Cyrus captured King Darius is shown enthroned and
The Medes of northwest Persia 587 BCE there was another siege. to understand the basic nature Babylon, acquiring most of bearing symbols of power in this
(Iran), consolidated their kingdom Much of the city was burned, the of the universe and thought its Mesopotamia and making the frieze. His son Xerxes succeeded him.
under Cyaxares (r. 624–585 BCE) Jewish Temple destroyed, and fundamental element was water. Persian Empire the greatest in
and took part in the destruction many of its inhabitants deported the Middle East. Cyrus died in Cambyses died in 522 BCE and
of the Assyrian Empire in 612 BCE. to a life of exile in Babylon. 530 BCE while fighting in what after the brief rebellion of Bardiya,
is today Turkmenistan, and was who was either the younger
succeeded by his son Cambyses. brother of Cambyses or someone
In 526 BCE Cambyses sent his impersonating him, Darius, a
armies south into Egypt. The Persian noble, took over as king.
Pharaoh Amasis had just died and Widespread revolts broke out,
his successor Psammetichus III including in Media, but Darius put

The Behistun inscription of Darius

was not well established. them all down. He then

Cambyses defeated the Egyptian expanded the Persian Empire
army at Pelusium in 525 BCE and by annexing lands in central Asia
then captured the royal capital and on the borders of India from
at Memphis. He installed himself 519 to 515 BCE. In India, the
Lawgiver and reformer as the pharaoh and then subdued political power had coalesced
This image shows the Greek statesman and lawgiver Solon teaching. His southern Egypt. Persian rule in around the Mahajapanadas, a
reforms began to undermine the power of the aristocracy in Athens. Egypt lasted until 402 BCE. group of around 16 powerful

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Gautama Siddharta (Buddha), 563–483 BCE

Roman aristocrats led by Lucius consuls were elected by the material life. He is known as the Spring and Autumn period. From
Junius Brutus and Lucius popular assembly each year. Buddha (which means the the age of 15 he devoted himself
Tarquinius Collatinus (the king’s Some time around 530 BCE, “awakened one” in Sanskrit), and to scholarship, and the political
cousin) won over the army and Gautama Siddharta, a Hindu his followers, who became known philosophy he developed reflects
barred the gates of the city to prince of Kapilvastu (now in as Buddhists, spread his ideas the turbulent times. He taught
THE NUMBER the king, who was deposed. Nepal), had a religious revelation throughout South Asia and, in the that the righteous man (or junzi)

OF YEARS OF The coup leaders then

established a republic in which
and rejected his noble upbringing
to embark on a quest for
late 3rd century CE, into China and
thence to Korea, Japan, and
must have regard to others and
inflict no unnecessary harm.
THE ROMAN supreme authority was held by “enlightenment.” Six years later Southeast Asia. His philosophy, as developed

two magistrates called consuls. he received it and began to preach Confucius (or Kong Fuzi) was by his disciples, taught respect for
The power of the consuls was a way of moderate asceticism to born around 551 BCE, in a period of elders and became a cornerstone
limited by the fact that new gain release from the suffering of political instability during China’s of the later imperial system.
kingdoms. Of these, Magadha
was the most important state.
Afterward, Darius subdued most
of the Greek city-states of Ionia,
before he crossed into Europe in
513 BCE to conquer Thrace.
In Italy, Servius Tullius (r. 578–
534), the sixth king of Rome and
said to be a former slave, had
succeeded Tarquinius Priscus in
578 BCE. During his reign he
implemented important reforms,
fixing the formal boundaries of
the city by dividing the Romans
into four “tribes,” a system that CYRUS THE GREAT
would be extended as Roman (r. 559–539 BCE)
territory grew, and also into
classes that were graded by Little is known about the
wealth. The population was early life of Cyrus. He was
divided by what equipment they the ruler of the kingdom of
could afford and what role they Pars when he led a revolt
played in the Roman army. The against his Median overlord
wealthiest class fought as cavalry, Astyages. By defeating
the higher classes as heavy Astyages, Cyrus became king
infantry, and the poor as light of the Medes. He then
auxiliary troops. The votes of the continued to expand Persian
richer classes carried much influence with the conquest
greater weight in the popular of Lydia. Cyrus adapted local
assembly. The last king of Rome, ideas about kingship to cast
Tarquinius Superbus (r. 534– himself as an ideal ruler in
509 BCE) was an Etruscan. the cities he conquered. Persian elite
Concerned at the growing Cyrus died in 539 BCE. These archers from the palace of Darius at Susa were the elite of the Persian army, which
tyranny of his rule, a group of included representatives from provinces as far off as Ethiopia and Afghanistan.

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Medusa figure

Medusa antefix
This terra-cotta
antefix—an ornament
placed at the cornice
of buildings or at roof
eaves—is in the form of
Medusa, the mythical
creature whose gaze
turned people to stone.
cheek piece

leaf-shaped blade

Corinthian helmet Spearhead

600–500 BCE 600–400 BCE
The Corinthian helmet, made Greek hoplites (armed
from a single bronze sheet, infantry soldiers) carried
was the most common type in a large thrusting spear,
Greece, from around 750–300 BCE. of which this is the tip.
the goddess
of love


Bronze mirror
While the Greeks created magnificent monumental art, smaller fastening
490–460 BCE
chain This mirror is richly
items such as jewelry, musical instruments, weaponry, and adorned with an image
vases show the Greek love of intricate forms and decorative of Aphrodite flanked
by cupids.
adornment throughout all periods of their history.

Greek art underwent a series of phases that were reflected in all aspects
of artistic production, but particularly on vases. In the Geometric phase
(c. 850–700 BCE), decoration was mainly composed of geometric forms,
replaced in the Orientalizing phase (c. 700–600 BCE) with floral and
animal themes, followed by the more naturalistic representations
of the Classical phase (from 600 BCE).

Bronze cymbals
500–400 BCE Gold earrings
Greek cymbals are bell- or 420–400 BCE
cup-shaped, and are often These delicate gold filigree
depicted on vases being earrings depict boats containing
held by fauns or satyrs, sirens, mythical creatures
or by women in whose beautiful voices lured
Bacchanalian revels. unwary seafarers to their doom.

Mirror lid and fibula

420–400 BCE
cup-shaped form This silver fibula (brooch) and
chain may have fastened together
a cloak. The ornate mirror-back
Aulos shows Aphrodite with the Gold brooch
400 BCE half-goat god Pan. 650–600 BCE
This wind instrument was This hawk-shaped brooch dates
originally a double one (one from a period in which Oriental
wooden pipe has been lost), (and particularly Egyptian)
silver mouthpiece finger hole
played through a reed. influences were strong in Greece.

c. 475–470 BCE
In Athens, influential politicians could be
ostracized (exiled) by public vote. The name retrograde
of the politician each voter wished to be (right-to-left)
banished was inscribed on a piece of pottery. inscription

Boeotian horse and rider figurine Boeotian figurine Discus

550 BCE 400–200 BCE 600–500 BCE
The depiction of this horse and This terra-cotta figurine of a This fine bronze discus belonged to
rider has an archaic feel about it, woman holding a jar comes an athlete named Exoidas. After he
in contrast to the production of from Boeotia, where a tradition won a victory in a sporting contest
Boeotian terra-cotta workshops of such sculptures began as using it, he dedicated the discus
over 200 years later (see right). early as the 8th century BCE. to the gods Castor and Pollux.

lotus and Attic askos

honeysuckle 425–400 BCE
pattern The askos was a type of vessel for
pouring liquids such as oil, shaped
in the form of a traditional wine sack.
The design is in the red-figure style
that became popular around 530 BCE.

Attic skyphos Apulian pyxis

525–500 BCE 500–400 BCE
This drinking vessel shows a A pyxis was often used for storing
couple at their wedding standing small items of jewelry and cosmetics.
in a chariot. The vase is painted This south-Italian example is decorated
in the black-figure style. with geometrical shapes.


hero Hercules carrying
Erymanthean boar double band
of meanders
lotus bud
top of foot and
lower base
painted black

Athenian amphora Attic lekythos Epichysis

540–530 BCE 480–470 BCE 375–340 BCE
An amphora was a type of vessel used Greek vases were often painted with The long-spouted epichysis was a vessel
for storing wine. This one is decorated mythological scenes. This black- used for pouring wine. This south-Italian
using the black-figure technique, which figure vase shows the goddess vase has its base decorated with a
predates the red-figure method. Athena beating a giant to his knees. pattern of white chevrons.

500–491 BCE 490–476 BCE
Herodotus, ancient Greek historian, quoting words attributed to Dieneces, a Spartan, on being told that the Persian
archers shot so many arrows they would conceal the Sun; from Histories

This 19th-century painting shows the Spartan king Leonidas I (center, facing) and his men at the Battle of
Thermopylae in 480 BCE. Thermopylae became a byword for heroic defiance against overwhelming odds.

THE KINGDOM OF MAGADHA maneuvers to weaken each other, before seizing Eretria, which had
emerged as an important state in periodically interrupted aided the Ionians in 499 BCE.
northern India under the rule of by outbreaks of war. Although the Athenians appealed
Bimbisara (r. 543–491 BCE), friend In 490 BCE, Darius I (548–486 BCE) to Sparta for aid, the only help
and protector of Gautama Buddha of Persia decided to take revenge they received came from Plataea,
(c. 563–c. 486 BCE), who founded on the mainland Greeks for their which sent 1,000 reinforcements.
Buddhism (see 550–501 BCE). support of the Ionian revolt. The Athenians opted to march
Bimbisara’s son Ajatashastru Darius despatched a huge naval out to meet the Persians rather
(r. 491–461 BCE) strengthened the expedition under Artaphernes than wait for a siege, on the
royal capital at Rajagirha and built and Datis, which sailed from advice of their general, Miltiades
a center at Pataligrama on the Cilicia, landing first at Naxos (550–489 BCE). In 490 BCE at
Ganges River, which later became
Pataliputra, the Mauryan royal
capital. By conquering Kosala
and Kashi, and annexing the Vrijji
confederacy, Ajatashastru turned
Plebeians withdraw from Rome Magadha into the dominant
The departure of the plebeians (on the left in this engraving) threatened to power on the Ganges Plain. Persian winged-lion rhyton
split Rome irreparably, so the patricians (right) ceded some political power. In China, the political system of The Persian Empire enjoyed
the Spring and Autumn period vast wealth, as illustrated by
THE GREEK CITY-STATES OF IONIA uprising against the Persians. evolved into the Warring States everyday items such as this
in western Anatolia had been Sparta rejected his pleas, but only period (481–221 BCE), in which golden drinking vessel. They
directed huge resources toward
subjects of the Persian Empire Athens and Eretria sent forces. A seven main states engaged in the conquest of Greece.
since Cyrus conquered Lydia, their failed attack on Sardis led the a constant round of diplomatic
previous overlord, in 547 BCE (see Athenian forces to return home.
550–501 BCE). In 499 BCE, The Ionians gradually lost ground

Aristagoras, the ruler of Miletus, to a Persian land offensive from
set out to mainland Greece to 497 BCE. The fall of Miletus to the
recruit allies for a planned Persians that year and the death
of Aristagoras undermined Ionian
unity and, after a great naval
defeat at the Battle of Lade in
494 BCE, the revolt fell apart.
In Italy, the young Roman
600 Republic was rocked by social

PERSIA dissent in 494 BCE when the
plebeians (the lower social
353 groups) withdrew from Rome en OF WARRING
masse in protest at their
treatment by the patricians (the
higher social groups); they
The Battle of Lade
threatened to set up an alternative
The Ionian Greek navy fought hard at animals were
Lade, but the prearranged defection state. They were persuaded back often the
of the Samians to the Persians led to only by official recognition of their inspiration for a
its utter defeat. own representatives (tribunes). rhyton’s shape

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475–451 BCE

Marathon, the Greek hoplite T HR ACE

(heavy infantry) formation Black Sea
SUCCESS under the direction of
advanced head-on against a far Cimon (510–450 BCE), wresting
more numerous Persian force to Pella Byzantium Eion on the Strymon River (in
win an unlikely victory. THESSALY Anatolia) from the Persians in
Chastened, the Persian Larissa Abydus 476 BCE and then attacking
expeditionary force withdrew from Artemisium 480 Aeg e a n Carystos on Euboea (which had
Greece after Marathon, but in Thermopylae 480 Sea LYDI A submitted to the Persians) in
481 BCE Xerxes I (519–465 BCE) Plataea 479 Marathon 490
Sardis 498 470 BCE. An attempt by the island
Salamis 480 Athens Anatolia
dispatched another huge Persian Peloponnese Ephesus of Naxos to leave the Delian
Mycale 479
army, which crossed over the Sparta Miletus 494 League around the same time led
Hellespont (near modern-day to an Athenian expeditionary force
Istanbul) and proceeded south Mediterr anean
that powerfully suppressed the
toward Athens. Many northern The Greco– Sea Rhodes breakaway movement. In 469 BCE,
Persian wars Athenian treasury at Delos
Greek states chose to submit, Crete Athenian forces won a great All members of the Delian League
but Athens and Sparta patched Although the Cyprus
victory over the Persians at the
Persians possessed KEY had to deposit funds at treasuries on
together a league of southern vastly superior numbers, the Eurymedon River on the south Delos, but the contribution of Athens
Annexed by Persia
states. In 480 BCE, a heroic defense Greek forces were motivated Greek victory coast of Anatolia, establishing was the most important.
Persian campaigns
of the pass at Thermopylae by to win crucial land and sea against Greece Persian victory Athenian supremacy in the Aegean.
the Spartan king Leonidas I, engagements. 490–479BCE Indecisive battles Pericles (c. 495–429 BCE), the and by 462 BCE their last stronghold
in which he and all his 10,000 Athenian statesman largely at Ithome had been reduced. Soon
soldiers died, bought time for the victories followed in June 479 BCE, After the initial defeats of the responsible for making Athens after, open conflict broke out
Athenians to evacuate. The on land at Plataea in Boeotia and Persians in 480–479 BCE, Athens the political and cultural focus between Sparta and Athens and
Persians burned the city, but soon at sea at Mycale off the Ionian sought to formalize the league of of Greece, tried but failed to their respective allies. The First
after, under the command of coast. The Greeks then took the anti-Persian allies. A treasury prosecute Cimon in 463 BCE, on Peloponnesian War was
Themistocles (see panel below), offensive, and during 478–477 BCE was set up on the island of Delos a charge of having neglected a inconclusive. It ended in 451 BCE
the Athenian fleet inflicted a won a string of victories in Ionia in around 477 BCE. The league’s chance to conquer Macedonia. with a five-year truce, extended in
serious defeat on Xerxes’s naval and Cyprus, which reversed most funds were to be deposited here From this maneuver, Pericles’ 446 BCE to a Thirty Years’ Peace
force at Salamis. Further Greek of the Persians’ gains. and regular meetings were to take vision and ideas of expansion for between the two sides.
place. But this Delian League Athens were already evident. Meanwhile, the western part of
THEMISTOCLES (c. 524–460 BCE) soon became little more than an When the leading figure among the Greek world was becoming
Athenian empire, and Sparta and the democrats, Ephialtes, was increasingly important, marked by
A clever politician and strategist, its allies refused to take part. assassinated in 461 BCE, Pericles, the rise of the Sicilian city-state of
Themistocles persuaded the his protégé, swiftly took his place. Syracuse. Under a series of able
Athenians to use the wealth of a
,, Periodically, the Persians had rulers (tyrants) that began with

silver mine discovered at tried to bribe the Spartans into Gelon (r. 485–478 BCE) and his
Laurium in 483/2 BCE to double diversionary attacks on Athens, brother Hieron (r. 478–467 BCE),
their fleet. However, after the
naval victory at Salamis, he STRUGGLE initially to little effect. In 464 BCE, a
revolt of the Messenian Helots
Syracusan forces subdued the
neighboring city of Acragas and
became the object of increasing
jealousy from political rivals. In HAS COME. (unfree men) in the western
Peloponnese further distracted
expanded territory around Catana.
Although Hieron’s younger
about 470 BCE Themistocles was the Spartans from any attempt to brother Thrasybulus was driven
ostracized from Athens (exiled Herodotus, ancient Greek historian, stem the rising power of the out in 466 BCE, the Syracusans
quoting Pausanias, the Spartan
by public vote). commander, before the Battle of Delian League. The Messenians retained their dominant position
Plataea in 479 BCE; from Histories received little outside assistance, in Sicily beyond the 450s BCE.

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P 51
450–431 BCE 430–404 BCE

In the late 5th century, the Mexican city of Monte Albán began to build its public
buildings—the ancestors of its later magnificent pyramids, shown here.


social classes—the patricians and
the plebeians (see 500–491 BCE)—
villages. Monte Albán’s center
housed large-scale public
buildings—including truncated
The Athenian Empire had the

were still divided. The two sides pyramids, great plazas, and naval advantage as it included
came to an agreement in 451 BCE,
appointing a group of ten men
ballgame courts—as well as
elaborate burial tombs. Within
most of the island and coastal
states around the northern and
(the decemviri) to govern Rome
outside the normal constitution.
150 years, the population of
Monte Albán would swell to
eastern shores of the Aegean Sea.
Meanwhile, the city-state of Sparta
In 449 BCE, the decemviri produced
the Laws of the Twelve Tables,
around 17,000, making it the
largest city in Mesoamerica.
led an alliance of independent
states from the Peloponnese and
which formed the basis for all central Greece, as well as Corinth, Thucydides, ancient Greek historian, relating a speech by Pericles to the
Roman law codes. and had the strongest army. Athenians; from History of the Peloponnesian War, II.63
Zapotec figure from Monte Albán
Around 450 BCE in Central This elaborate ceramic deity is Despite the Thirty Years’ Peace of
Europe, a new Celtic culture typical of the production of Monte 446 BCE, tensions remained high hostilities in 430 BCE began three force at Pylos southwest of
emerged, called La Tène, which Albán, which became Mexico’s between Athens and Sparta. The years earlier, when Athens had Sparta. Yet neither side could land
supplanted the earlier dominant premier site in the 5th century BCE. events that led to renewed intervened on behalf of Corcyra a fatal blow and in 421 BCE they

in a dispute with Corinth; the agreed the Peace of Nicias, which
Spartans took it as a sign that was supposed to last for 50 years.
Athens had breached the peace. The truce soon began to unravel.
An attack by Thebes, a Spartan Corinth refused to recognize its
ally, on Plataea, which supported authority, a pro-war leadership
Athens, was similarly taken by emerged in Sparta, and a complex
the Athenians to indicate Sparta set of political maneuvers by
was fixed on war. Athens, led by Alcibiades (450–404 BCE), the
Pericles, achieved early success in newly dominant politician in
THE NUMBER the Peloponnesian War (431–
404 BCE). In 426 BCE, the Athenians
Athens, led to the renewal of the
war in 419 BCE. The following year,
OF TABLES OF invaded the Peloponnese, and Sparta’s allies won a key victory
ROMAN LAW the following year landed a large at Mantinea. Athens struck back

SOCRATES (469–399 BCE)

Halstatt culture. Ruled over by a
warrior aristocracy that buried its One of the greatest Greek
dead with swords, spears, and philosophers, Socrates served
funerary chariots, La Tène had on the Athenian Council in
important centers in Bohemia (in 406 BCE, but his challenges to
what is now the Czech Republic) conventional morality at a time
and around the Marne and of political uncertainty gained
Moselle rivers (in modern France). him powerful enemies. He
In Oaxaca on Mexico’s Pacific refused to mount a conventional
Coast, a new center arose shortly defense against charges of
before 450 BCE at Monte Albán. corrupting the Athenian youth
This proto-city, on a hilltop above and was sentenced to die by
the Oaxaca Valley, drew people drinking the poison hemlock.
from the surrounding agricultural

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403–381 BCE

The Great AFTER ITS VICTORY IN THE (r. 404–358 BCE). Cyrus was
Amphipolis T HRAC E
Byzantium Peloponnesian War PELOPONNESIAN WAR, Sparta defeated and killed at the Battle
Pella Thasos
Sea of Marmara The period of 431–404 BCE found itself embroiled in a quarrel of Cunaxa in 401 BCE, but in its
Spartolus Thasos Cyzicus saw the destruction of with Persia over whether the aftermath some 10,000 Greek
429 Acanthus
Methone Aegospotami the Athenian Empire at
Lampsacus 410 Ionian Greek cities should regain mercenaries were left trapped in
Potidaea 405
the hands of a coalition of
Lemnos Cynossema PHRYGIA
Sparta and its allies. their autonomy. Through the northern Mesopotamia. Under

390s BCE, sporadic fighting and Xenophon, the Greeks marched


Lesbos EMPIR E
abortive peace talks diverted to the Black Sea coast and
Ambracia Aegean
Sea Mitylene Sparta from a weakening position safety near Trapezus (Trabzon
Leucas 406 in mainland Greece. The “King’s in modern-day Turkey), a feat
Cephallenia Delphi
Delium Chalcis Peace,” a definitive treaty with their commander immortalized
424 Eretria Chios
Gul I O NI A Persia in 386 BCE, deprived the in his book Anabasis.
f of C Thebes KEY
ACHAEA o ri n th Euboea Notium
Corinth 407
Athenian Empire
Ionians of autonomy but allowed In Italy, the Romans widened
Zacynthus Mantinea Argos Andros the Spartans to quash any threats their territory and annexed the
CA R I A Athenian ally
418 Epidaurus
Miletus to its supremacy. In 385 BCE, they city of Veii in 396 BCE, whose
Do d

Peloponnese Sparta and allied states

Cyc lad es attacked Mantinea in the central submission represented the end
Sparta neutral territory

Sphacteria Peloponnese and in 382 BCE of any Etruscan threat. However,

425 se Cnidus Athenian victory

Melos occupied Thebes. Spartan power c. 390 BCE, an army of Celts, who
Spartan victory
Cythera Rhodes seemed unassailable. had been attacking the Etruscan
Lindus In Persia, the death of Darius II city of Clusium, turned south,
(r. 423–404 BCE) was followed by a defeated a Roman army at the
brief civil war, when Cyrus the Battle of the Allia, and then took
7,000 Younger tried to overthrow his Rome itself. This disaster haunted
2,800 Spartans 18,500 30,000 Spartans
older brother Artaxerxes II the Romans for centuries.


420 3,000


in 416 BCE by capturing Melos—the was briefly overthrown. In Magadha in India the
only main Aegean island not in Democracy was restored the Haryanka dynasty founded by
its possession—but fatally following year, and, although the Bimbisara was replaced c. 413 BCE
overreached itself in 415 BCE Athenians won victories at Cyzicus after the death of Ajatashatru
with an expedition to Sicily, ending in 410 BCE and Arginusae in 406 BCE, (c. 459 BCE) and a series of
in the total destruction of the the total destruction of their ineffectual rulers. Shishunaga
Athenian force by the Syracusans fleet at Aegospotami off Ionia in founded a new dynasty, which
in 413 BCE. The Spartans, 405 BCE left Athens defenseless. was responsible for overseeing
meanwhile, established a fort at The Spartans blockaded the city, the final transfer of the Magadha
Decelea in Attica that denied the and, despite a determined royal capital to Pataliputra.
Athenians access to the rich silver resistance, the Athenians were The Shishunaga dynasty lasted
mines. An alliance with Persia forced to surrender. Athens was only 500 years.
further strengthened Sparta’s deprived of its fleet and in 404 BCE Etruscan tomb painting
position in 412 BCE, and a year later a pro-Spartan Council of Thirty The Etruscan language has never been deciphered, so it is through the
the democratic regime in Athens was installed to govern it. frescoes in their tombs that much has been learned of their culture.

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