Ancient River Valley Civilizations


1. The Big Picture
2. Socioeconomic Characteristics of a River Valley Civilization ( State Standards: 6.2.1, 6.2.2, 6.6.1)
3. Sociopolitical Characteristics of a River Valley Civilization
4. World Religions

The Big Picture

Starting around 3500 B.C.E., some village cultures developed into civilizations that revolved around city life in Mesopotamia , Egypt_ , the Indus Valley, and China Other ancient societies such as the Hebrews,Phoenicians and Kush emerged later in this era. Mild climate, favorable landforms, soils, and water sources cradled the development of the ancient cultures of theFertile Crescent. Pastoralism made it possible for larger communities to inhabit the semi-arid steppes and deserts of Africa and Eurasia. Migrations of peoples like the Indo-Europeans into Europe and India shaped the language and culture of later societies.

In the New Stone Age, permanent settlements appeared in river valleys and around the Fertile Crescent. River valleys provided rich soil for crops, as well as protection from invasion. Approximately 5000 years ago the first complex, politically centralized civilizations began to crystallize independently along a number of river valleys throughout the southern half of Asia and northern Africa . These civilizations constitute the next step in the organization and centralization of human economic, political, religious, and social institutions and practices. Rivers supplied a continuous if not always dependable flow and supply of water for farming and human consumption. These rivers along with climate, vegetation, geography, and topography shaped the development of the early river valley civilizations. However a fuck up place like this is a completely normal thing , while people of these civilizations were dependent on the rivers, the rivers also inspired new technological, economic, institutional, and organizational innovations and developments.

Between 3000 and 2000 B.C.E. such river valley civilizations formed independently of each other along the Indus, the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, and the YellowRivers. These civilizations shared certain characteristics that distinguished them from the collections of Neolithic communities that preceded them. The location of the first major Ancient River Valley Civilizations (about 3500 to 500 B.C.) occurred along Nile River Valley and Delta (Africa; Egyptian civilization), the Tigris and Euphrates River Valleys (Southwest Asia; Mesopotamian civilization), the Indus River Valley (South Asia; Indian civilization and the Huang He Valley (East Asia; Chinese civilization). These river valleys offered rich soils for agriculture and tended to be in locations easily protected from invasion by nomadic peoples. Early civilizations (2000 to 500 B.C.), such as the Hebrews settled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River Valley (part of Fertile Crescent in Southwest Asia), the Phoenicians who settled along the Mediterranean coast (part of Fertile Crescent in Southwest Asia) and the Kush who were located on the upper (southern) Nile River (Africa).

These societies shared the following characteristics that collectively define them as ancient river valley civilizations: __complex social institutions__ (religion/government), __advanced technology__ , and __written language__ . They developed a degree of political order and power , specialization of jobs, class differentiation, __city design__ that required technological skills. Important economic advancements of early urban ancient river valley civilizations included the development of metal tools and weapons (bronze, iron), __increasing agricultural surplus__ (better tools, plows, irrigation), increasing trade along rivers and by sea, development of the world’s first cities , and the specialization of labor and the beginning of organized trade .

These river valleys were the “Cradles of Civilization.” Early civilizations made major contributions to social, political, and economic, and cultural progress. The development of social patterns of ancient river valley civilizations was characterized by hereditary rulers (dynasties of kings, pharaohs ) and a rigid class system , where slavery was accepted. Political patterns of ancient river valley civilizations were characterized by the world’s first states (city-states , kingdoms, empires), (often based on religious authority), and written law codes (Ten Commandments, Code of Hammurabi ). The forms of language and writing that existed in early civilizations, include pictograms (earliest written symbols), hieroglyphics (Egypt) writing systems , cuneiform (Sumer), and the alphabet (Phoenicians) .

Religion also was a significant part of life in all early civilizations . Polytheism was practiced by most early civilizations while monotheism was first practiced by the Hebrews. The monotheism of Abraham became the foundation of Judaism and Christianity . The essential beliefs, traditions, and customs of Judaism include: a belief in one God (monotheism), the Torah, which contains written records and beliefs of Hebrews, and the Ten Commandments, which state moral and religious conduct.

The Big Picture
Starting around 3500 B.C.E., some village cultures developed into civilizations that revolved around city life in __Mesopotamia__ , __Egypt__ , __the Indus Valley__, and __China__ Other ancient societies such as the __Hebrews__, __Phoenicians__ and __Kush__ emerged later in this era. Mild climate, favorable landforms, soils, and water sources cradled the development of the ancient cultures of the __Fertile Crescent__

Pastoralism made it possible for larger communities to inhabit the semi-arid steppes and deserts of Africa and Eurasia. Migrations of peoples like the Indo-Europeans into Europe and India shaped the language and culture of later societies.

In the New Stone Age, permanent settlements appeared in river valleys and around the Fertile Crescent_. River valleys provided rich soil for crops, as well as protection from invasion. The location of the first major Ancient River Valley Civilizations (about 3500 to 500 B.C.) occurred along Nile River Valley and Delta (Africa; Egyptian civilization), the Tigris and Euphrates River Valleys (Southwest Asia; Mesopotamian civilization), the Indus River Valley (South Asia; Indian civilization and the Huang He Valley (East Asia; Chinese civilization). These river valleys offered rich soils for agriculture and tended to be in locations easily protected from invasion by nomadic peoples. Early civilizations (2000 to 500 B.C.), such as the Hebrews settled between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River Valley (part of Fertile Crescent in Southwest Asia), the Phoenicians who settled along the Mediterranean coast (part of Fertile Crescent in Southwest Asia) and the Kush who were located on the upper (southern) Nile River (Africa).


Overview Links:

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(2) Timeline: __
(3) Map of ancient Mesopotamia: __

Ancient Egypt:
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Indus Valley Civilization :
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Ancient China:
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Hebrews :
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Nomadic challenges:
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The Big Picture
These societies developed a degree of political order and power , specialization of jobs, class differentiation, city design, and building projects that required technological skills. Important economic advancements of early urban ancient river valley civilizations included the development of metal tools and weapons (bronze, iron), increasing agricultural surplus (better tools, plows, irrigation), increasing trade along rivers and by sea, development of the world’s first cities, and the specialization of labor and the beginning of organized trade.

Technology & Trade


Mesopotamians invented many technologies including metal and copper-working, glass and lamp making, textile weaving, flood control, water storage, and irrigation.
They were also one of the first __Bronze age__ people in the world. Early on they used copper, bronze and gold, and later they used iron. Palaces were decorated with hundreds of kilograms of these very expensive metals. Also, copper, bronze, and iron were used for armor as well as for different weapons such as swords, daggers, spears, and __maces__.

The earliest type of pump was the __Archimedes screw__, first used by __Sennacherib__, King of __Assyria__, for the water systems at the __Hanging Gardens of Babylon__ and __Nineveh__ in the 7th century BC, and later described in more detail by __Archimedes__ in the 3rd century BC.__[22__] Later during the __Parthian__ or __Sassanid__ periods, the __Baghdad Battery__, which may have been the first batteries, were created in Mesopotamia.__[23__]


The geography of Mesopotamia is such that agriculture is possible only with irrigation and good drainage, a fact which has had a profound effect on the evolution of Mesopotamian civilization. The need for irrigation led the Sumerians and later the Akkadians to build their cities along the Tigris and Euphrates and the branches of these rivers. Some major cities, such as Ur and Uruk, took root on tributaries of the Euphrates, while others, notably Lagash, were built on branches of the Tigris. The rivers provided the further benefits of fish (used both for food and fertilizer), reeds and clay (for building materials).

With irrigation the __food supply__ in Mesopotamia was quite rich with the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys forming the northeastern portion of the __Fertile Crescent__, which also included the __Jordan River__ valley & that of the __Nile__. Although land nearer to the rivers was __fertile__ and good for __crops__, portions of land farther from the water were dry and largely uninhabitable. This is why the development of __irrigation__ was very important for__settlers__ of Mesopotamia. Other Mesopotamian __innovations__ include the control of water by __dams__ and the use of __aqueducts__. Early settlers of fertile land in Mesopotamia used __wooden____plows__ to soften the __soil__before planting crops such as __barley__, __onions__, __grapes__, __turnips__ and __apples__. Mesopotamian settlers were some of the first people to make __beer__ and __wine__.

Although the rivers sustained life, they also destroyed it by frequent floods that ravaged entire cities. The unpredictable Mesopotamian weather was often hard on farmers; crops were often ruined so backup sources of food such as cows and lambs were also kept. As a result of the skill involved in farming in the Mesopotamian, farmers did not depend on __slaves__ to complete farm work for them, with some exceptions. There were too many risks involved to make slavery practical (i.e. the escape/__mutiny__ of the __slave__).

Science and technology

The Babylonian astronomers were very interested in studying the stars and sky, and most could already predict eclipses and solstices. People thought that everything had some purpose in astronomy. Most of these related to religion and omens. Mesopotamian astronomers worked out a 12 month calendar based on the cycles of the moon. They divided the year into two seasons: summer and winter. The origins of astronomy as well as __astrology__ date from this time.
During the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Babylonian astronomers developed a new approach to astronomy. They began studying __philosophy__dealing with the ideal nature of the early __universe__ and began employing an internal __logic__ within their predictive planetary systems. This was an important contribution to astronomy and the __philosophy of science__ and some scholars have thus referred to this new approach as the firstscientific revolution.__[12__] This new approach to astronomy was adopted and further developed in Greek and Hellenistic astronomy.
In __Seleucid__ and __Parthian__ times, the astronomical reports were of a thoroughly scientific character; how much earlier their advanced knowledge and methods were developed is uncertain. The Babylonian development of methods for predicting the motions of the planets is considered to be a major episode in the __history of astronomy__.
The only Babylonian astronomer known to have supported a __heliocentric__ model of planetary motion was __Seleucus of Seleucia__ (b. 190 BC).__[13__]__[14__]__[15__] Seleucus is known from the writings of __Plutarch__. He supported the heliocentric theory where the __Earth rotated__ around its own axis which in turn revolved around the __Sun__. According to __Plutarch__, Seleucus even proved the heliocentric system, but it is not known what arguments he used.
Babylonian astronomy was the basis for much of what was done in __Greek and Hellenistic astronomy__, in classical __Indian astronomy__, in__Sassanian__, __Byzantine__ and __Syrian__ astronomy, in medieval __Islamic astronomy__, and in __Central Asian__ and __Western European__ astronomy.__[16__]


The Kingdom of Kush or Cush was an ancient African state centered on the confluences of the __Blue Nile__, __White Nile__ and __River Atbara__ in what is now the __Republic of Sudan__. It was one of the earliest civilizations to develop in the __Nile__ River Valley. Having also been referred to as __Nubia__, and as "Ethiopia" in ancient __Greek__ and __Greco-Roman__ records, the __Kushites__ left their mark on various aspects of the ancient world and their legacy is still readily discernible from the various archaeological field sites scattered throughout modern __Sudan__.

Kushite economic influence extended widely in sub-Saharan Africa. Extensive trade was conducted with people to the west, and this trade may have brought knowledge of iron making to much of the rest of Africa. The greatest period of the kingdom at Meroe, where activities centered from the early 6th century onward, lasted from about 250 B.C. to A.D. 50. By this time the kingdom served as a channel for African goods - animal skins, ebony and ivory, gold and slaves - into the commerce of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Many monuments were built during these centuries, including huge royal pyramids and an elaborate palace in Meroe. Much fine pottery and jewelry were produced. Meroe began to decline from about A.D. 100 onward and was defeated by a kingdom to the south, Axum, around A.D. 300. Prosperity and extensive political and economic activity did not end in this region, but extended into the formation of a kingdom in present-day Ethiopia.


Main article: __Ancient Egyptian technology__

The characteristics of ancient Egyptian technology are indicated by a set of artifacts and customs that lasted for thousands of years. The __Egyptians__ invented and used many basic machines, such as the __ramp__ and the __lever__, to aid construction processes. They used __rope__ __trusses__ to stiffen the __beam__ of ships, unknown again until modern engineering. Egyptian __paper__, made from __papyrus__, and __pottery__ was mass produced and exported throughout the __Mediterranean__ basin. The __wheel__, however, did not arrive until foreign invaders introduced the __chariot__ in the sixteenth century B.C. The Egyptians also played an important role in developing Mediterranean __maritime__ technology including __ships__ and __lighthouses__.
The ancient Egyptians engaged in trade with their __foreign neighbors__ to obtain rare, exotic goods not found in Egypt. In the __Predynastic Period__, they established trade with Nubia to obtain gold and incense. They also established trade with Palestine, as evidenced by Palestinian-style oil jugs found in the burials of the First Dynasty pharaohs.__[95__] An Egyptian __colony__ stationed in southern __Canaan__ dates to slightly before the First Dynasty. __Narmer__ had Egyptian pottery produced in __Canaan__ and exported back to __Egypt__.

By the Second Dynasty at latest, ancient Egyptian trade with __Byblos__ yielded a critical source of quality timber not found in Egypt. By the Fifth Dynasty, trade with __Punt__ provided gold, aromatic resins, ebony, ivory, and wild animals such as monkeys and baboons. Egypt relied on trade with __Anatolia__ for essential quantities of tin as well as supplementary supplies of copper, both metals being necessary for the manufacture of bronze. The ancient Egyptians prized the blue stone __lapis lazuli__, which had to be imported from far-away __Afghanistan__. Egypt's Mediterranean trade partners also included __Greece__ and Crete, which provided, among other goods, supplies of __olive oil__. In exchange for its luxury imports and raw materials, Egypt mainly exported grain, gold, linen, and papyrus, in addition to other finished goods including glass and stone objects.

Science and Technology

The ancient civil Egyptian calendar had a year that was 365 days long and was divided into 12 months of 30 days each, plus 5 extra days (epagomenes, __Greek__ ἐπαγόμεναι) at the end of the year. The months were divided into 3 "weeks" of ten days each, an arrangement remarkably similar to the __French Republican Calendar__ invented nearly 5,000 years later. Because the ancient Egyptian year was almost a quarter of a day shorter than the solar year and stellar events "wandered" through the calendar, it is referred to as Annus Vagus or "Wandering Year".

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Egyptian Daily Life:


Indus Valley civilization was mainly an urban culture sustained by surplus agricultural production and commerce, the latter including trade with __Sumer__ in southern __Mesopotamia__. Both __Mohenjo-daro__and Harappa are generally characterized as having "differentiated living quarters, flat-roofed brick houses, and fortified administrative or religious centers."__[5__] Although such similarities have given rise to arguments for the existence of a standardized system of urban layout and planning, such similarities are largely due to the presence of a semi-orthogonal type of civic layout, and a comparison of the layouts of __Mohenjo-Daro__ and Harappa shows that they are in fact, arranged in a quite dissimilar fashion. The chert weights and measures of the Indus Valley Civilization, on the other hand, were highly standardized, and conform to a set scale of gradations. Distinctive seals were used, among other applications, perhaps for identification of property and shipment of goods. Although __copper__ and __bronze__ were in use, __iron__ was not yet employed. "__Cotton__ was woven and dyed for clothing; __wheat__, __rice__, and a variety of vegetables and fruits were __cultivated__; and a number of animals, including the __humped bull__, were __domesticated__."__[5__] Wheel-made pottery—some of it adorned with animal and geometric motifs—has been found in profusion at all the major Indus sites. A centralized administration for each city, though not the whole civilization, has been inferred from the revealed cultural uniformity; however, it remains uncertain whether authority lay with a commercial __oligarchy__. There appears to be a complete lack of priestly "pomp or lavish display" that was common in other civilizations.
The Arts, Technology and Trade of the Classical Harappan

The cities of the Harappan covered a vast amount of territory, making trade between different cities and villages vital. A wide variety of traded and localized goods were found throughout Harappan settlements (all of which were of a marked high quality). Goods found at the Harappa site alone, in the workshops of coppersmiths, weavers, potters, and bead makers show that the arts practiced were highly time consuming and specialized. Little deviation is found in artistic styles from region to region, although there is some evidence to suggest that certain artifacts were associated with a possible social caste system. By 2,000 BC the technologies and the arts of the Harappan were well developed. Produced goods were mostly made for utilitarian ends. However some copper pieces, metalwork, beadwork and seals were used for decoration. The scenes in such artwork often show depictions of animals or religious ceremonies, with an obvious emphasis and time taken on exacting detail.

The Harappans were not limited to trading within their own villages. Geographic sea ports and other trade routes were utilized fully as is evidenced by the numerous sites and cities that bloomed around them. Speculation remains about the conditions involved with long distance trade and the use of the trade goods received from such exploits. However, it is obvious that the Harappans relied heavily upon this trade.

An intricate system of weight involving small stone cubes was perhaps the standard weight and measure system of Harappan civilization.. These cubes start at a base weight of just under a 1/2 ounce (the smallest of weights found in a jewelers shop) and increment upward in units of 1, 2, 64 and finally 160. Such a weight system not only shows that a barter or economic system was in place with the Harappans, but along with other non-indigenous goods found throughout Harappan settlements suggests a formalized system of trade. Traded goods included gold, copper, and carnelian; there were undoubtedly other, perishable, goods traded. Large vessels found near the site indicate that trade extended to such areas as Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, and parts of Arabia and Africa. Ultimately, the reliance on trade and the noted ability in artistic craftsmanship, all lead to the conclusion that by 2,500 BC Harappan civilization was a distinct and unified culture that encompassed a great deal of territory.

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First coinage
external image 180px-BMC_06.jpgexternal image magnify-clip.png
Early 6th century BC one-third stater coin.

According to __Herodotus__, the Lydians were the first people to introduce the use of gold and silver __coin__ and the first to establish retail shops in permanent locations.__[9__] It's not clear, however, whether Herodotus meant that the Lydians were the first to introduce coins of pure gold and pure silver or the first precious metal coins in general. Despite this ambiguity, this statement of Herodotus is one of the pieces of evidence often cited in behalf of the argument that Lydians invented coinage, at least in the West, even though the first coins were neither gold nor silver but an alloy of the two.__[10__]

The dating of these first stamped coins is one of the most frequently debated topics in ancient numismatics,__[11__] with dates ranging from 700 BC to 550 BC, but the most commonly held view is that they were minted at or near the beginning of the reign of King Alyattes (sometimes incorrectly referred to as __Alyattes II__), who ruled Lydia c. 610-550 BC.__[12__] The first coins were made of__electrum__, an __alloy__ of gold and silver that occurs naturally but that was further debased by the Lydians with added silver and copper.__[13__] The largest of these coins are commonly referred to as a 1/3 __stater__ (trite) denomination, weighing around 4.7 grams, though no full staters of this type have ever been found, and the 1/3 stater probably should more correctly be referred to as a stater, which means "standard."__[14__] These coins were stamped with a lion's head adorned with what's likely a sunburst, which was the king's symbol.__[15__] To complement the largest denomination, fractions were made, including a hekte (sixth), hemihekte (twelfth), and so forth down to a 96th, with the 1/96 stater weighing only about 0.15 grams. There is disagreement, however, over whether the fractions below the twelfth are actually Lydian.__[16__] Alyattes' son was Croesus, who became synonymous with wealth. Sardis was renowned as a beautiful city. Around 550 BC, near the beginning of his reign, Croesus paid for the construction of the __temple__ of __Artemis__at __Ephesus__, which became one of the __Seven Wonders of the ancient world__. Croesus was defeated in battle by __Cyrus II__ __of Persia__ in 546 BC, with the Lydian kingdom losing its autonomy and becoming a Persian__satrapy__.


As far back as c. 1500 BC, the early Shang Dynasty engaged in large-scale production of __bronze__-ware vessels, and weapons.__[24__] This production necessitated large labor force that would handle the mining, refining, and transportation of __copper__, __tin__, and __lead__ ores.__[24__] The Shang Dynasty royal court and aristocrats required a vast amount of different bronze vessels for various ceremonial purposes and events of religious __divination__, hence the need for official managers that could provide oversight and employment of hard-laborers and skilled artisans and craftsmen.__[24__] With the increased amount of bronze available, the army could become better equipped with an assortment of bronze weaponry, and bronze was also able to furnish the fittings of __spoke__-wheeled chariots that came into widespread use by 1200 BC.__[25__] Ceremonial rules decreed how many bronze containers of each type a member of nobility of a certain rank could own.

Apart from their role as the head military commanders, Shang kings also asserted their social supremacy by acting as the high priest of society and leader of divination ceremonies.__[25__] As the oracle bone texts reveal, the Shang kings were viewed as the best qualified members of society to offer sacrifices to their royal ancestors, to the high god Di, who in their beliefs was responsible for the rain, wind, and thunder.__[25__]

Science and technology
The Chinese Calendar

From Shang times on until the twentieth century, today even sometimes used in art, the cyclic lunar __calendar__ (yueli 月曆) was the instrument to date every event. It is composed of two different cylces, the ten Celestial Stems (tiangan 天干) and the twelve Terrestrial Branches (dizhi地支). To count the days, a combination of two characters - each being from one of the two cycles - came up to sixty days, divided in two months and six ten-day weeks (xun 旬). Once the 60 unit cycle has ended, it is repeated time after time. Thus, one 360 day year includes six complete stem-branch-cycles. In later dynasties, the years have been counted in the same manner, resulting in sixty-years-cycles which made it possible to define a year if the name of the ruler was known. Sometimes the ten Stems and Branches just serve as numbers. The Shang rulers used to count their ancestors in this way. Shang astronomers observed the annual cycle and found out the length of a solar year as 365 1/4 days (the old calender this is called sifenli 四分曆 "quarter calendar"). Months were divided into long and short months, the long months counting 30 days, the smaller 29 days. Twelve months made up one lunar year, and to adjust it to the solar year, one intercalary week (runyue 閏月) was added seven years from nineteen ("year" is nian 年, a character that originally meant "harvest"; the character is compound from 禾 "grain" and 千 "thousand"; other words for "year" are sui 歲 and si 祀 "annual sacrifice to the Earth"). The observation of the starry sky and the weather was essential for the performance of a perfect government.

Reports about various diseases of men, animals and crops often occur in the __oracle bone inscriptions__. They might be first traces of a kind of observal medicine.

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Phoenicia is now modern day Lebanon, was an ancient civilization centered in the north of ancient __Canaan__, with its heartland along the coastal regions of modern day __Lebanon__, extending to parts of __Israel__, __Syria__ and__Palestine__. Phoenician civilization was an enterprising __maritime trading culture__ that spread across the Mediterranean during the period 1550 BC to 300 BC. Though ancient boundaries of such city-centered cultures fluctuated, the city of __Tyre__ seems to have been the southernmost. __Sarepta__ (modern day Sarafand) between__Sidon__ and Tyre, is the most thoroughly excavated city of the Phoenician homeland. The Phoenicians often traded by means of a __galley__, a man-powered sailing vessel and are credited with the invention of the__bireme__.__[3__] It is uncertain to what extent the Phoenicians viewed themselves as a single ethnicity. Their civilization was organized in __city-states__, similar to __ancient Greece__. Each city-state was an independent unit politically, although they could come into conflict, be dominated by another city-state, or collaborate in leagues or alliances.!/phoenician_trade.jpg!/phoenician_trade.jpg

Fernand Braudel remarked in The Perspective of the World that Phoenicia was an early example of a "world-economy" surrounded by empires. The high point of Phoenician culture and seapower is usually placed ca. 1200–800 BC.
Many of the most important Phoenician settlements had been established long before this: __Byblos__, __Tyre__,__Sidon__,__Simyra__, __Arwad__, and __Berytus__ all appear in the Amarna tablets; and indeed, the first appearance in archaeology of cultural elements clearly identifiable with the Phoenician zenith is sometimes dated as early as the third millennium BC.
This league of independent city-state ports, with others on the islands and along other coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, was ideally suited for trade between the __Levant__ area, rich in natural resources, and the rest of the ancient world. Suddenly, during the early __Iron Age__, in around 1200 BC an unknown event occurred, historically associated with the appearance of the __Sea Peoples__ from the north who were perhaps driven south by crop failures and mass starvation following the __Thera eruption__. The powers that had previously dominated the area, notably the __Egyptians__ and the __Hittites__, became weakened or destroyed; and in the resulting power vacuum a number of Phoenician cities established themselves as significant maritime powers.

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(2) PRIMARY RESOURCE: Phoenician Sea and Land Voyages and Routes - In the first half of the sixth century B.C., the Carthaginian admiral Hanno made a long voyage along the African west coast. His logbookcontains a description of a fully active volcano and the first known report about gorillas.

Development of Cities


In this painting of Babylon, the artist has recreated the view of the eastern portion of the city as it is thought to have looked during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (ca. 604-562 B.C.). In the foreground is the Euphrates River, which ran through the center of the city. Next to the Euphrates is the sacred temple complex of the god Marduk (the "Esagila") including the ziggurat, a stepped tower, which probably gave rise to the famed Biblical account of the Tower of Babel. Beyond the Esagila lies the rest of the eastern section of Babylon and its defensive walls. Beyond the walls are the open cultivated fields of the Mesopotamian plains. The city of Babylon (ca. 600 B.C.) was considered a marvel of the ancient world, with a population of 200,000, and system of defensive walls that ringed the city for ten miles.

For the ancient Mesopotamians, their cities were the centers of life. When they looked back to the beginning of time, they did not see a Garden of Eden, but rather an ancient site called Eridu, which they believed was the first city ever to be created. Ancient Mesopotamia is where the world's first cities appeared around 4000 - 3500 B.C.

No one knows for sure why urbanization began in Mesopotamia. The development of cities could have occurred due to environmental conditions. Lack of rainfall might have been the inspiration for people to organize themselves in a common effort to build canals for the irrigation of farmland. Another reason may have been the need for protection on the open plain, which could have led people to gather together to create walled enclaves. Whatever the reasons, this was the first time in history that humankind channeled its energies towards addressing the needs of a community as a whole.



Cities in ____**ancient**____ ____**Egypt**____ grew out of the development of agriculture and the emergence of the state as the unifying and predominant form of political organization. However, even as early as 3500 BC, towns and cities (if they can be called such), consisted of regional capitals linked to the population centers of smaller administrative districts. The term we most frequently apply to these districts is __nome__, which was actually not used to describe a province until the __Greek Period__. During the __New Kingdom__, the Egyptian word for "city" was niwt, a term which in the earliest texts of the __1st Dynasty__ refers to "settlement". As early as the __5th Dynasty__, the term for a "town" or large village was dmi. The term for "village", which was apparently linked to the word for "household", was whyt.
Unfortunately, our knowledge about Egyptian cities, and settlements in general is limited. Every aspect of of ancient Egyptian cities conspires to limit our understanding. Settlements and cities were located on the floodplain, with a preference for proximity to the __Nile__, in order to receive goods by boat and for its source of water. Unlike __temples__ and __tombs__, most housing and public buildings in these cities and settlements were made of mudbrick throughout pharaonic times and shifts in the course of the Nile, the build-up of the floodplain by the annual deposition of silt and the impact of high __Nile floods__ have all led to their destruction, which has sometimes been complete. Many cities, such as __Thebes__, have been built over by modern settlements, and even when some remains have survived, the mudbrick has been harvested by farmers to use as fertilizer. Finally, archaeological investigations since the nineteenth century have focused on temples and tombs, with their rich and spectacular art, sculpture and architecture, rather than the few less thrilling ancient Egyptian towns.

Early prehistoric settlement sites in the __Nile__ Valley vary in size from as little as about 16 meters. The largest sites probably represent repeated occupations, with lateral displacement through time. By contrast, the __Predynastic__ villages were the result of permanent occupation with a vertical build-up of deposits.
Prior to about 5000 BC, the inhabitants of the __Nile__ Valley were mostly foragers who practiced fishing, fowling, hunting and collecting wild plants. The first known farming community then occupied a site at the edge of the floodplain of the Nile Delta at Merimda Beni Salama, about twenty-five kilometers to the northwest of __Cairo__. This was a large village, consisting of about 180,000 square meters and it remained populated for about 1,000 (one thousand) years, until about 4000 BC. At the end of this period, the dwellings consisted of clusters of semi-subterranean huts made from mud with mud-plastered walls and floors. The village had residential areas interspersed with workshops and public areas. Even though the orientation of huts in rows seems to suggest some organizational order, there is really no indication of elite areas or any pronounced hierarchical organization. Initial estimates of the village population were around 16,000, but more recent investigations suggest that it more likely had between 1,300 and 2,000 inhabitants, provided the whole of the area was simultaneously occupied.

Around 3500 BC, the village of __Maadi__ was established about fifteen kilometers south of present day __Cairo__, probably as a trade center. The site shows evidence of huts, storage magazines, silos and cellars. We believe that Maadi was at the end of an overland trade route to Palestine, and was probably inhabited by middlemen from the Levant at that time, as evidenced by house and grave patterns. In fact, trade items including copper and bitumen from southwest Asia have been unearthed in this location. There were also artifacts discovered that associate the site with Upper Egypt, suggesting that Maadi was a trade link between the south and the Levant. Maadi seems to have been about the same size as Merimda Beni Salama.

At about the same time in the __Nile__ Valley, the two towns of __Hierakonpolis__ and __Naqada__ became much more important, growing in relationship to neighboring villages. Hierakonpolis was contained in an area of about 50,000 to 100,000 square meters, which is comparable in area to the area known as South Town in the Naqada region. Excavations at Hierakonpolis reveal that over time, the village shifted to the northeast, suggesting that older areas were abandoned and used for disposal. At any one time, there were probably between 1,500 and 2,000 inhabitants.

Prior to the emergence of South town in the __Naqada__ region, the area was dotted with small villages and hamlets between the edge of the floodplain and the desert margin. Dating to around 3800 BC, these villages, often spaced about two kilometers apart, consisted mostly of flimsy huts. However, by about 3600 BC, one of those villages began to build up into a true town. No other villages at the edge of the desert are known from that time. Of course, as the town grew, some of the rural population was incorporated into the emerging urban center, and a low __Nile flood level__ caused some shifting of village communities closer to the river. South Town possibly developed into an urban settlement because of its association with a religious cult and shrine, which became a center for solidarity among the villages, which were probably organized by kin-related lineages and clans. It probably developed into an early administrative center, where food exchanges and trade transactions among the villages and even nearby nomads of the Eastern Desert were overseen. The villages of Naqada seem to also have established trade with __Hierakonpolis__, where the development of an urban center was possibly most related to its trade with __Nubia__ and the Near East by way of __Maadi__.
A decline in the __Nile flood__ discharge and an increase in demands for trade goods by expanding urban dwellers, beginning from around 3500 to 3300 BC, led to the integration of neighboring communities into larger political units, with territorial chiefdoms and petty kingdoms. This also led to some sporadic warfare and therefore, fortified walled cities. Each of these became associated with a territorial standard representing the tribal or ethnic groups. In Mesopotamia, this evolution led to the emergence of city states, but perhaps because of the linear arrangement and limitations of the __Nile__ Valley, this did not happen in Egypt. Instead, the course of the Nile Valley urbanization followed a political transformation that we believe, around 3200 BC, led to the emergence of some sub-national unity.

Abydos, north of __Naqada__ and __Hierakonpolis__, existed as a locus of proto-national power that even controlled parts of the Delta some two centuries before the emergence of the __1st Dynasty__. The royal necropolis of __Abydos__ continued as a significant religious establishment well after the emergence of __Memphis__.

By 3000 BC, the unification of all the administrative districts under a single theocratic dynasty was accomplished, we are told, by __Menes__. __Memphis__ was a result of this unification. The fist kings of Egypt's __1st Dynasty__, by consolidating their power at Memphis, diminished the possibility of the rise of rival urban centers. These early kings display considerable brilliance in their consolidation of power at Memphis, developing a royal ideology that bonded all the districts to the person of the ruler, rather than to any given territory. Furthermore, some of the most powerful local deities were included in a cosmogony at Memphis that removed them from their local political districts. Unfortunately, we know very little about ancient Memphis itself. Though it remained an important population center throughout pharaonic history, Memphis remains mostly a mystery, though recent investigations using new technologies are beginning to provide some enlightenment. For example we now know that the city, over its vast history of some three millenniums, shifted eastward in response to the invasion of sand dunes and a shift in the course of the __Nile__.

Later, other royal cities emerged to become royal capitals, though __Memphis__ always seems to have been an administrative center. __Tell el-Dab'a__, located in the northeastern __Nile__ Delta, was the residential site of Egyptianized Canaanites and elite Delta administrators. This town was possibly established on the site of an earlier estate, established at the beginning of the __12th Dynasty__, as a royal palace of __Amenemhet I__. The town became the capital city of Egypt during the __Hyksos__ dynasty from about 1585 to 1532, probably because of its favorable location for trade with the coastal Levant and the administration of mining activities in the __Sinai__. Then, this city's name was probably Avaris. Later, during the Ramessid era, the new capital of __Piramesses__ was located nearby.

Obviously, during the __New Kingdom__, __Thebes__ became very important, certainly rivaling __Memphis__. However, the city of Thebes is now completely covered by modern Luxor, and remains almost completely unknown except for the information derived from its temples and monuments, and from some rare excavations. We do know that the __Middle Kingdom__ town consisted of an area of about 3,200 by 1,600 feet, made up on a grid plan and surrounded by a wall measuring some twenty feet thick. That city appears to have been almost completely leveled at the beginning of the New Kingdom, to accommodate the creation of the Great Temple complex of __Karnak__ with a new residential area and suburbs that perhaps spread as far as eight kilometers from the city center.

During the __Third Intermediate Period__, __Tanis__, which is located about twenty kilometers north of __Piramesses__ became an important royal city, and during the __Late Period__, __Sais__, which is situated on one of the western branches of the __Nile__ and which is one of the earliest prominent settlements of the Delta, became a powerful capital. Of course, during the __Ptolemaic (Greek) Period__, __Alexandria__, located northwest of Sais, became Egypt's capital until the Arab invasion.
However, the cities of ____**ancient**____ ____**Egypt**____, including their locations, functions and organization, were related to various dynamics that shaped the course of Egyptian civilization based on both internal and external forces. There were many specialized cities such as those based on trade. Others, for example, were made up of artisans, craftsmen and workers related to various royal projects. Some of the best preserved of these are four different workers villages have survived to some extent, all of which were situated somewhat off of the __Nile__. The village at __Deir el-Medina__ is perhaps one of the best known, located on the western bank of the Nile opposite __Thebes__. It does provide an idea of the organization of a specialized village, as well as a somewhat distorted view of village life. Another __workers' village is located at Illahun__, on the eastern end of the __12th Dynasty__ pyramid complex of __Senusret II__. That town was later occupied by officials of the __king's mortuary cult__. A third __workers' village__ was discovered at __Tell el-Amarna__, the capital city built by the heretic king __Akhenaten__. It was build on the edge of the desert to the east of the Nile, and because the city was abandoned early on, provides one of the clearest indications of village design and construction, though it may not be completely reprehensive of other settlements. A final workers' and surprisingly, one of the last to be excavated, is found at __Giza__ just outside__Cairo__

The __town of Illahun (Kahun)__ is also representative of various settlements that existed where priests and others were responsible for the rituals and observances related to the mortuary cult of the king, as well as the foundation estate created to finance such cults. Some of these also became administrative centers, in addition to their responsibilities for maintaining the cult.

Another clear example of specialized Egyptian towns were the fortress towns, of which some of the best known were in __Nubia__ and date to the __Middle Kingdom__. However, there were other similar towns in the northeast and probably even the northwest, particularly later, that protected the borders from Asian and other invaders, as well as from massive immigration. The Egyptian state had also assumed a strategy to control the exploitation and flow of goods from Nubia, where these __fortresses__ were built on either flat land or hills. One of the largest was the fortress excavated at Buhen, abut 250 kilometers south of __Aswan__. It consisted of a fortress built on an __Old Kingdom__ site that consisted of an inner citadel, surrounded by a mud-brick enclosure wall some five meters thick and eight to nine meters high, all overlooking the __Nile__. These fortresses in Nubia were developed into towns, with temples and residential areas. Residential areas surrounded the citadel and were adjacent to a temple.

As Egyptian civilization progressed, there appears to have been some seventeen cities and twenty-four towns in an administrative network that linked them to the national capital. Though of course the population varied over time, it has been estimated at between 100,000 and 200,000 people. The populations of provincial capitals and towns were perhaps fairly small, ranging from 1,400 to 3,000 inhabitants. We believe that __Illahun__, __Edfu__, __Hierakonpolis__ and __Abydos__ would have been populated by 2,200, 1,800, 1,400 and 900 people, respectively. __Tell el-Amarna__, on the other hand, as a royal capital would have had a population of between 20,000 and 30,000. Older capitals, such as __Memphis__ and __Thebes__, may have reached a level of between 30,000 and 40,000 inhabitants at the peaks of their occupation.

The population of these cities and towns were not urban in a modern sense, but perhaps more similar to today's provincial Egyptian towns, which have unmistakable rural aspects to them. The residents consisted not only of urban dwellers, but also of rural people, such as farmers and herdsmen who went out to the countryside each day. Urban inhabitants included artisans, scribes, priests, tax-collectors, servants, guards and soldiers, entertainers and shopkeepers. The kings, nobles and the temples possessed estates that employed a variety of personnel, many of whom were rural workers on the agricultural land. These cities and towns certainly had a hierarchical organization, which included not only palaces, mansions and __temples__, but also the humble dwellings for the functionaries and peasants, along with workshops, granaries, storage magazines, shops and local markets, all the institutions of residential urban life.

Irregardless of their size, towns and cities became centers of power. In these urban centers, both priests and nobles provided the fabric of the state ideology, as well as the administration of major economic and legal affairs. It was the cities of ____**ancient**____ ____**Egypt**____ that allowed the country to grow into an empire and assume the sophistications of a world power.

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The Shang is the earliest Chinese dynasty for which we have written evidence. Shang civilization was a series of towns united under the Shang king. The center of the Shang domain was found in the eastern and northeastern regions of Henan. The king's residence was in the center of the city. It was built on a north-south axis. All buildings in the city were rectangular and were made of mud with wooden beams. In addition to the king, the nobility lived within the city. They also lived in houses of mudThe peasants often lived outside of the city, although there were a few within the walls of the city. Those within the city lived in pits and cellars. The common folk outside the city lived in villages. Not much is known about the villages except that they did exist. It is thought that they harvested millet, barley, and perhaps rice. They used tools made of wood to work the land. The peasants operated on a "well-field" system. The land was divided into nine squares. The peasant would keep the products of eight squares, while the lord would take the products of the ninth square. It is believed that these people were very primitive in comparison to the people of the city. The cities around the capital were called palace-cities. Each city was surrounded by a wall. Within the walls were the military and religious centers as well as the nobility residences. Every palace-city was a copy of the capital city. The buildings were identical and arranged in the same format. The capital of the Shang moved seven times before finally settling in Yin which became the permanent capital.

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Indus cities grew out of earlier villages that had existed in the same locality for hundreds of years. The cities developed out of earlier villages that had previously existed in the same region. Beginning with a relatively small population, they grew in size and density to become the largest settlement of the region, surrounded by numerous towns and villages. New villages were established at the crossroads of trade routes, which eventually became large towns and cities of the Indus Valley civilization. All these settlements were linked by trade and economic activities as well as religious beliefs and social relations. Most villages covered 1 ha to 10 ha of area. These villages supported and maintained the larger towns and cities.
Vast agricultural lands, rivers and forests that were inhabited by pastoral communities, fisher folk, hunters and gatherers surrounded each city.

Classification of towns
  • Small villages or hamlets < 1-10 hectares
  • Large towns 10-50 hectares
  • Cities 50 hectares
Important Cities

200 hectares
150 hectares
80 hectares

80 hectares

100 hectares

Rehman Dehri
22 hectares
Development of Settlement Planning

Evidence of the earliest village is from Mehergarh (6500-6000 BC). The settlement consisted of an irregular scatter of mud brick houses separated by refuse dumps and passageways. Houses, both square and rectangular, were subdivided into four or more units. Some units were probably used as storage areas. Material for house construction comprised handmade mud bricks, wood, branches and grass. The idea of settlement planning was well established at Harappa at a very early phase, Kot Diji (prior to 2600 BC). The basic overall layout of the settlements is distinguished by the orientation of the streets to cardinal points. There is no standard division of the city into a high western citadel and a lower town. Large public buildings, market areas, large and small private houses as well as craft workshops have been found in conjunction with each other.

Each city is composed of a series of walled sectors or mounds, oriented in different directions. The actual layout of the streets and smaller lanes is defined as an irregular net pattern. The walls of the houses were built at different angles and often the city walls were built curving instead of along cardinal directions. Defence walls (4-5 m) built of limestone rubble foundation and mud bricks surrounded the settlement.

At Dholavira, (2600-1500 BC) it has been possible to trace the growth of the settlement to an important urban centre and its eventual decline. The site is on an island in the Rann of Kutch. Its strategic location near the coast permitted it to control the movement of goods between the resource areas of Gujarat and the core areas of the Indus plain. Dholavira was an important site for the manufacture of agate beads, shell working and ceramic production.

The first phase of occupation is dated to 2500 BC. Houses were built of mud bricks on sandstone foundations. The city consists of an acropolis and a lower town. The large buildings located on the acropolis area may represent administrative or ritual structures. Open areas in the city were probably used as markets or public gathering places. Habitation and craft activity areas are located in the lower sectors of the city. They are organised in blocks divided by north-south and east-west streets. Cisterns and reservoirs located in the citadel and lower town provided for the collection of seasonal water.

The largest example of writing in the Indus cities has been recovered from a side room of a gateway at Dholavira. The inscription is made from white gypsum paste inlay set into a wooden plank. It consists of 10 symbols, each measuring 37 cm x 25-27 cm and probably mentions a name or a title. The sign was probably mounted on the gateway and would have been visible throughout the city.
In the Late Indus phase, deterioration in town planning is noticed. There is a distinct absence of urban structures and the city appears to disintegrate into small rural settlements.


Harappa had a population of around 23,500 and an area of over 150 hectares. The city of Harappa consists of a number of mounds, each provided with mud brick walls, and brick gateways and bastions. Earliest city may have been formed during the Kot Diji phase, i.e., 2800-2500 BC and covered an area of 25 hectares. It became a centre for trade networks extending from Baluchistan and Afghanistan to the west to the seacoast in the south.
  • Earliest city may have been formed during the Kot Diji phase, i.e., 2800-2500 BC
  • Earliest city covered an area of 25 ha.
  • It became a centre for trade networks extending from Baluchistan and Afghanistan to the west to the seacoast in the south.
  • Towns built over raised mud brick platforms
Town structure consists of:
  • Citadel mound and lower town surrounded by a massive brick wall.
  • Citadel had square towers and bastions.
  • Large open areas inside the gateway may have been used as a market or checkpoint for taxing goods coming into the city
  • Outside the city walls a cluster of houses may represent temporary rest stops for travellers and caravans
  • No division of the society is reflected in the layout of the city. Since large public buildings, market areas, large and small houses as well as craft workshops have been found in the same neighbourhood.
  • Barrack-like group of single-roomed tenements were for the poorer classes
  • Basic house plans ranging from single room tenements to houses with courtyards and up to 12 rooms to great houses with several dozen rooms and several courtyards.
  • Houses had rooms on three sides opening into a central courtyard
  • Nearly all large houses had private wells.
  • Hearths common in rooms.
  • Bathrooms in every house with chutes leading to drainage channels.
  • First floor bathrooms also built.
  • Brick stairways provided access to the upper floors.
  • Houses built with a perimeter wall and adjacent houses were separated by a narrow space of land.
  • Granary with areas for threshing grains.
  • Burnt bricks mainly used for drains, wells and bathrooms.
  • Sun dried bricks used mainly for fillings.
  • Timber used for flat roofs and as frames or lacing for brickwork

Drainage system

Wells and reservoirs were provided in cities to ensure drinking and bathing water. The wells were lined with specially-made wedge-shaped bricks to form a structurally sound cylinder. Ropes were used to lift the water out, probably with leather or wooden buckets. Some neighbourhoods had communal wells.
Bathing platforms with drains were often situated in rooms adjacent to the wells. The floors of the baths were made of tightly-fitted bricks, often set on edge to make a watertight floor. A small drain cut through the house wall out into the street directed the dirty water into a larger sewage drain. Drains and water chutes in the upper storeys were often built inside the wall with an exit opening just above the street drains. Tapered terracotta drainpipes were used to direct water out to the street.
Many houses had distinct toilets, separate from the bath areas. Commodes were large jars or sump pots sunk into the floors and many of them contained a small jar. Sometimes the sump pots were connected to drains to let the sewage flow out and most had a tiny hole on the bottom to allow the water to seep into the ground.
Drains were made of burnt bricks and connected the bathing platforms and latrines of private houses to medium-sized open drains in the side streets. These open drains flowed into the larger sewers in the main streets which were covered with baked bricks or dressed stone blocks. Separate garbage bins were provided along the major streets.


The most common building materials were mud bricks and baked bricks, wood and reeds. The average size of the bricks was 7 x 12 x 34 cm (for houses) and 10 x 20 x 40 cm for the city walls. The larger bricks have a standard ratio of 1:2:4. Mud brick and baked brick and wood or stone were used for the foundation and walls of the houses.
The doors and the windows were made from wood and mat. House floors were generally hard-packed earth that was often replastered or covered with clean sand. Bathing areas and drains were made with baked brick and stone. Some rooms were paved with bricks or fired terracotta cakes. Roofs were probably made of wooden beams covered with reeds and packed clay. Some of the largest buildings appear to have been made entirely of wood.


Most private houses had rooms arranged around a central courtyard. Doors and windows opened out into side lanes. Stairs led up to the roof or the second storey. Windows had shutters and latticework.

Large public structures

Large buildings in the acropolis area may represent administrative or ritual structures. These buildings had access routes or provided thoroughfare from one area to another. Markets and public meetings were probably held in large open courtyards.
Groups of houses and public buildings were built close together with shared walls and formed larger blocks that were bordered by wide streets. Most houses had private bathing areas and latrines as well as private wells. At Harappa, the transition of the settlement from an agricultural village to early city probably took place in around 2800 BC (Kot Diji) phase. During this phase the settlement grew to about 25 hectares in size and became a centre for trade networks extending from Baluchistan (Afghanistan) to the west to the distant seacoast in the south. In the next few hundred years, the town had grown six times larger, covering an area of 150 hectares.

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The Phoenician city-states were important centers of trade and occupied strategically important sites along the Mediterranean coast. This made them appealing targets for every major power in the region. Unfortunately for them, the Phoenician cities rarely had much of a chance to stand up the invading forces. First, they never developed a cohesive political or social unity which would have allowed them to work together for common goals and defense, as occurred among the Greek city-states. Second, they occupied relatively small strips of land which simply didn't provide either the space or the natural resources necessary to stand against large armies.

As a consequence, the Phoenician cities were continually buffeted by international politics and the interests of major powers like Egypt to the south, Alexander and his Greeks to the north, and both Assyrians and Babylonians to the east. Phoenician political independence was strongest during the 10th and 9th centuries BCE, a time when they were allied closely with the Israelite kingdom - it's probably no coincidence that this era was height of Israelite political power and independence as well.

The above map depicts the growth of the Assyrian empire from about the 9th century BCE through its fall to the Babylonians in 612 BCE. Although the Assyrians started relatively small, like other political entities in the region, their desire to simply neutralize external threats soon led them to acquire control over vast amounts of territory, including the Phoenician city-states. After the Assyrian empire fell, the Babylonians controlled the Phoenician coast; after them, it was the Persians and then later the Greeks.
The fate of the Phoenician city-states closely mirrored that of the Israelites who also possessed strategically important land. The Assyrian conquest of the Phoenicians included northern Israel. The Babylonians who besieged Tyre had already destroyed Jerusalem. The Hellenizing impact of Alexander continued south through the Israelite cities.

Map of Phoenician and Greek colonies at about 550 BC (with German legend)

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The Big Picture

These river valleys were the “Cradles of Civilization.” Early civilizations made major contributions to social, political, and economic, and cultural progress. The development of social patterns of ancient river valley civilizations was characterized by hereditary rulers (dynasties of kings, pharaohs ) and a rigid class system , where slavery was accepted. Political patterns of ancient river valley civilizations were characterized by the world’s first states (city-states, kingdoms, empires), (often based on religious authority), and written law codes (Ten Commandments, Code of Hammurabi). The forms of language and writing that existed in early civilizations, include pictograms (earliest written symbols), hieroglyphics (Egypt) writing systems , cuneiform (Sumer), and the alphabet (Phoenicians) .



The geography of Mesopotamia had a profound impact on the political development of the region. Among the rivers and streams, the Sumerian people built the first cities along with irrigation canals which were separated by vast stretchs of open desert or swamp where nomadic tribes roamed. Communication among the isolated cities was difficult and at times dangerous. Thus each Sumerian city became a __city-state__, independent of the others and protective of its independence. At times one city would try to conquer and unify the region, but such efforts were resisted and failed for centuries. As a result, the political history of Sumer is one of almost constant warfare. Eventually Sumer was unified by__Eannatum__, but the unification was tenuous and failed to last as the Akkadians conquered Sumeria in 2331B.C. only a generation later.
The Akkadian Empire was the first successful empire to last beyond a generation and see the peaceful succession of kings. The empire was relatively short lived, as the Babylonians conquered them within only a few generations.


Further information: __Sumerian king list__, __List of Kings of Babylon__, and __Kings of Assyria__
The Mesopotamians believed their kings and queens were descended from the City of __Gods__, but, unlike the __ancient Egyptians__, they never believed their kings were real gods.__[26__] Most kings named themselves “king of the universe” or “great king”. Another common name was “__shepherd__”, as kings had to look after their people.
Notable Mesopotamian kings include: __Eannatum__ of __Lagash__ who founded the first (short-lived) empire. __Sargon__ of __Akkad__ who conquered all of Mesopotamia and created the first empire that outlived its founder. __Hammurabi__ founded the first __Babylonian__ empire.
Tiglath-Pileser III founded the neo-__Assyrian__ empire.
Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful king in the neo-__Babylonian__ Empire. He was thought to be the son of the god Nabu. He married the daughter of Cyaxeres, so the Median and the __Babylonian__ __dynasties__ had a familial connection. Nebuchadnezzar’s name means: Nabo, protect the crown! Belshedezzar was the last king of Babylonia. He was the son of Nabonidus whose wife was Nictoris, the daughter of __Nebuchadnezzar__.


When __Assyria__ grew into an __empire__, it was divided into smaller parts, called __provinces__. Each of these were named after their main cities, like Nineveh, __Samaria__, __Damascus__ and __Arpad__. They all had their own __governor__ who had to make sure everyone paid their taxes; he had to call up__soldiers__ to __war__, and supply __workers__ when a __temple__ was built. He was also responsible for the laws being enforced. In this way it was easier to keep control of an empire like Assyria. Although Babylon was quite a small __state__ in the Sumerian, it grew tremendously throughout the time of__Hammurabi__'s rule. He was known as “the law maker”, and soon __Babylon__ became one of the main cities in Mesopotamia. It was later called Babylonia, which meant "the gateway of the gods." It also became one of history's greatest centers of learning.


external image 180px-PLATE3BX.jpgexternal image magnify-clip.pngAssyrian soldiers, from a plate inTHE HISTORY OF COSTUME by Braun & Schneider (ca. 1860).

As __city-states__ began to grow, their spheres of influence overlapped, creating arguments between other city-states, especially over land and canals. These arguments were recorded in tablets several hundreds of years before any major war - the first recording of a war occurred around 3200BCE but was not common until about 2500BCE. At this point warfare was incorporated into the Mesopotamian political system, where a neutral city may act as an arbitrator for the two rival cities. This helped to form unions between cities, leading to regional states.__[27__] When __empires__ were created, they went to war more with foreign countries. King Sargon, for example conquered all the cities of __Sumer__, some cities in Mari, and then went to war with northern __Syria__. Many Babylonian __palace__ walls were decorated with the pictures of the successful fights and the enemy, whether desperately escaping, or hiding amongst reeds. A king in Sumer, Gilgamesh, was thought two-thirds god and only one third human. There were legendary stories and poems about him, which were passed on for many generations, because he had many adventures that were believed very important, and won many wars and battles.


King Hammurabi, as mentioned above, was famous for his set of laws, __The Code of Hammurabi__ (created ca. 1780 BC), which is one of the earliest sets of laws found and one of the best preserved examples of this type of document from ancient Mesopotamia. He made over 200 laws for Mesopotamia For more information, see __Hammurabi__ and __Code of Hammurabi__. See also: __Laws of Eshnunna__, __Code of Ur-Nammu__.

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Similar to Egyptian society, the king was the most powerful leader in the land. However, unlike in Egypt, the people of Kush could remove the king if they felt the ruler was unjust, unfair, abusive, irresponsible or incapable. The Kushite kings had to use their mothers as their main political advisors. In Egypt, a woman may not have been the major advisor to the pharaoh, but the only way to become a pharaoh was to marry a woman of royal blood, and only women carried the royal blood line. Although the pharaoh’s position was traditionally a man’s role, in Kush both women and men became rulers.
The Kushite king appointed leaders to govern the localities, which paid taxes and other subsidies to the king. The local leaders, though, were very independent and made sure that the people in their regions lived well and had sufficient autonomy. Since the king allowed the localities a certain amount of independence, it helped to maintain the unity of the nation. Kush’s political system was much like America’s today in terms of the relationship between the states and the federal government. In other words, Kush’s localities had enough power to keep them satisfied.

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external image 140px-Pharaoh.svg.pngexternal image magnify-clip.png The pharaoh was usually depicted wearing symbols of royalty and power.
Much of the economy was centrally organized and strictly controlled. Although the ancient Egyptians did not use __coinage__ until the __Late period__, they did use a type of money-barter system,__[70__] with standard sacks of grain and the __deben__, a weight of roughly 91 grams (3 oz) of copper or silver, forming a common denominator.__[71__] Workers were paid in grain; a simple laborer might earn 5½ sacks (200 kg or 400 lb) of grain per month, while a foreman might earn 7½ sacks (250 kg or 550 lb). Prices were fixed across the country and recorded in lists to facilitate trading; for example a shirt cost five copper deben, while a cow cost 140 deben.__[71__] Grain could be traded for other goods, according to the fixed price list.__[71__] During the 5th century BC coined money was introduced into Egypt from abroad. At first the coins were used as standardized pieces of __precious metal__ rather than true money, but in the following centuries international traders came to rely on coinage.

The __pharaoh__ was the absolute monarch of the country and, at least in theory, wielded complete control of the land and its resources. The king was the supreme __military commander__ and head of the government, who relied on a bureaucracy of officials to manage his affairs. In charge of the administration was his second in command, the__vizier__, who acted as the king's representative and coordinated land surveys, the treasury, building projects, the legal system, and the archives. At a regional level, the country was divided into as many as 42 administrative regions called __nomes__ each governed by a __nomarch__, who was accountable to the vizier for his jurisdiction. The temples formed the backbone of the economy. Not only were they __houses of worship__, but were also responsible for collecting and storing the nation's wealth in a system of __granaries__ and treasuries administered by overseers, who redistributed grain and goods.

Historians can trace slavery in __Egypt__ from an early date.[__citation needed__] Private ownership of slaves, captured in war and given by the king to their captor, certainly occurred at the beginning of the __Eighteenth Dynasty__ (1550 - 1295 BCE). Sales of slaves occurred in the __Twenty-fifth Dynasty__ (732 - 656 BCE), and contracts of servitude survive from the __Twenty-sixth Dynasty__ (ca 672 - 525 BCE) and from the reign of__Darius__: apparently such a contract then required the consent of the slave.
The __Old Testament__ also recounts tales of slavery in Egypt: slave-dealers sold __Joseph__ into bondage there, and the Hebrews suffered collective enslavement (__Exodus__, chapter 1) prior to __the Exodus__. However, the __historicity of the Biblical account is questioned__. It is noteworthy that outside of the Biblical account, no evidence has ever been found indicating the systematic enslavement of Jews.

VIDEO: Cleopatra -

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The Shang Dynasty marked the middle of China’s Bronze Age and was a dynasty that made great contributions to Chinese civilization. Scholars do not fully agree on the dates and details of the earliest Chinese dynasties, but most accept that the Shang Dynasty is the first one to have left behind written records and solid archaeological evidence of its existence. The Shang is the second dynasty of the Three Dynasties Period. Legends speak of the earlier Xia dynasty, but no written records from that time have been found to confirm this. Even though texts written later than the Shang Dynasty mention the Xia Dynasty, Western scholars argue that they are not enough to prove it truly existed. Therefore, most Western scholars regard the legendary Xia as an early civilization that existed between the Neolithic and Shang cultures. But many Chinese scholars firmly believe that the Xia did indeed exist even if written records have never been found.
Because the Three Dynasties’ civilization occupied the Yellow River valley, this geographic area is often called the birthplace or cradle of Chinese civilization. While this is true in some regard, one must keep in mind that the Shang was but one of several contemporary civilizations in China.1 It may have been the only one with written records, but that does not mean it was the only one in existence. More recently discovered archaeological sites far away from the Yellow River valley reveal distinctly different cultures from the Shang, and scholars are now trying to determine how much these cultures influenced each other.

Oracle Bones

Before the discovery of the Shang oracle bones and the interpretation of their inscriptions and bronze inscriptions, scholars had no firm proof that the Shang Dynasty existed. Up to that point, Shang history had been based heavily on historical accounts written long after the Shang period ended. Shang bronze inscriptions were usually very short. With so little information, scholars questioned whether the dynasty even existed. The information and details inscribed onto oracle bones matched what was recorded in texts written centuries later, thereby providing the evidence scholars needed. The oracle bone inscriptions and the bronze inscriptions mark the beginning of written Chinese history.
The king or professional diviners hired by the king used oracle bones to make predictions about the future or to answer questions such as, “Will the king have a son?”, “Will it rain tomorrow?”, “If we send 3,000 men into battle, will we succeed?”, or even “Is the long drought caused by ancestor X?”2 The scribe carved the question onto a bone (most often the shoulder bones of water buffalo or other cattle) or a tortoise plastron.3 On the other side of the bone or plastron he would carve a number of small pits. He then inserted a hot metal rod into these pits until the bone cracked; and the king or diviner interpreted the cracks. Then, on the other side of the bone, the scribe carved the answer and the eventual outcome.
By analyzing oracle bone inscriptions, other artifacts, and archaeological sites such as tombs and ancient cities, scholars have been able to piece together many details of Shang civilization. They have confirmed the names of its kings, its style of government, its military history, its religious beliefs and rituals, and its society.

The Kingdom

According to legend, the Shang Dynasty was founded sometime around 1600 BCE by a virtuous man named Cheng Tang, who overthrew the evil king of the legendary Xia. The Shang Dynasty was a monarchy governed by a series of kings, 29 or 30 in total, over the course of almost 600 years.4 The king was served by officials who held specialized positions of authority and function; and the officials belonged to a hereditary class of aristocrats, usually related to the king himself.

While the king lived in and ruled from a capital city, it wasn’t always the same city. Although historical records mention many different Shang capitals, only a few have actually been confirmed with archaeological evidence. No one knows exactly why a king would move the capital but some scholars think it had to do with internal power struggles within the royal family.
Cheng Tang is said to have established the dynasty’s first capital at a town called Shang (near modern-day Zhengzhou), but later kings moved the capital many more times, the last being a place called Yin (near modern-day Anyang). Archaeological evidence suggests that the town of Shang was the ancestral capital of the dynasty that remained in a fixed location throughout the dynasty. It was where the Shang kings kept their most sacred ancestral temples, tablets, and regalia. The political capital was where the kings lived and ruled from. While the political capital moved many times during the dynasty, the ancestral capital never moved.6

The core of the dynasty was located in the northern part of modern-day Henan province, in a triangular area between the cities of Anyang, Luoyang, and Zhengzhou, the latter two of which are on the Yellow River. In addition to uncovering the remains of several Shang cities, archaeologists have found huge tombs of many Shang kings and their families. Even though the dynasty was centered in this area, its culture reached places much farther away.

As the oracle bones and other artifacts and records revealed, the Shang kings were constantly at war with outsiders near and far. Many of the oracle bones bore questions related to battles, such as the outcome of a future battle or how many men to send into battle. The king sent out armies of as many as 13,000 men to fight battles on behalf of the kingdom. Victorious armies brought back prisoners of war—as many as 30,000 at a time—who either became laborers or ritual sacrifices.7 The armies also helped gain new territories and bring back precious resources for the kingdom.

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Kingship appears to have been the oldest form of Phoenician government. The royal houses claimed divine descent, and the king could not be chosen outside their members. His power, however, was limited by the powerful merchant families, who wielded great influence in public affairs. Associated with the king was a council of elders; such at least was the case at Byblos, Sidon, and perhaps Tyre. During Nebuchadrezzar II's reign (605-562 BC) a republic took the place of the monarchy at Tyre, and the government was administered by a succession of suffetes (judges); they held office for short terms, and in one instance two ruled together for six years. Much later, in the 3rd century BC, an inscription from Tyre also mentions a suffete. Carthage was governed by two suffetes, and these officers are frequently named in connection with the Carthaginian colonies. But this does not justify any inference that Phoenicia itself had such magistrates. Under the Persians a federal bond was formed linking Sidon, Tyre, and Aradus. Federation on a larger scale was never possible in Phoenicia, for the reason that no sense of political unity existed to bind the different states together.

Language and Writing


The earliest __language__ written in Mesopotamia was __Sumerian__, an __agglutinative__ __language isolate__. Semitic dialects were also spoken in early Mesopotamia along with Sumerian. Later a __Semitic language__, __Akkadian__, came to be the dominant language, although Sumerian was retained for __administration__, __religious__, __literary__, and __scientific__ purposes. Different varieties of Akkadian were used until the end of the Neo-Babylonian period. Then __Aramaic__, which had already become common in Mesopotamia, became the official provincial administration language of the__Achaemenid__ __Persian Empire__. Akkadian fell into disuse, but both it and Sumerian were still used in __temples__ for some centuries.

In Early Mesopotamia (around mid 4th millennium BC) __cuneiform script__ was invented. Cuneiform literally means "wedge-shaped", due to the triangular tip of the stylus used for impressing signs on wet clay. The standardized form of each cuneiform sign appear to have been developed from __pictograms__. The earliest texts (7 archaic tablets) come from the __E__-anna super sacred precinct dedicated to the goddess Inanna at Uruk, Level III, from a building labeled as Temple C by its excavators.
The early __logographic__ system of cuneiform script took many years to master. Thus only a limited number of individuals were hired as __scribes__ to be trained in its reading and writing. It was not until the widespread use of a __syllabic__ script was adopted under Sargon's rule[__citation needed__] that significant portions of Mesopotamian population became literate. Massive archives of texts were recovered from the archaeological contexts of Old Babylonian scribal schools, through which literacy was disseminated.

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Ancient Egyptian belongs to the Afro-Asiatic family of languages. It was replaced by Arabic after the Arab conquest of Egypt, and is today a dead language. Egyptian is preserved in texts written over a period of four millennia. For most of this time the written language used only consonants, making it almost impossible to establish how words were pronounced.

The date and place of the origin of Egyptian writing remain uncertain. Ivory labels found at Abydos show that hieroglyphic signs were in use by the end of the First Dynasty (about 3100-2890 BC). The word 'hieroglyph' comes from the Greek hieros 'sacred' and gluptien 'carved in stone'. From the Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC) onwards, hieroglyphs were reserved largely for monumental inscriptions.

A handwritten script was used for records and correspondence. This was known as 'hieratic', the Greek word for 'priestly' since it had become the preserve of priests by the time Greek visitors reached Egypt. Different styles of hieratic were used for different types of text; for example, by the Middle Kingdom a calligraphic style was used for religious and literary texts, and a quicker, cursive style for administrative documents. In the Late Period (661-332 BC), the cursive script was replaced by demotic script, meaning 'popular'. This was essentially a more abbreviated version of hieratic. Demotic script, in turn, was replaced by Coptic in the first century AD, perhaps to record the contemporary spoken language. Coptic used the Greek alphabet with several additional demotic letters. It was used until the Arab conquest, and is preserved in the liturgy used in the Coptic Church to this day.

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Well over 400 distinct Indus symbols (some say 600)__[44__] have been found on __seals__, small tablets, or ceramic pots and over a dozen other materials, including a "signboard" that apparently once hung over the gate of the inner citadel of the Indus city of Dholavira. Typical __Indus inscriptions__ are no more than four or five characters in length, most of which (aside from the Dholavira "signboard") are exquisitely tiny; the longest on a single surface, which is less than 1 inch (2.54 cm) square, is 17 signs long; the longest on any object (found on three different faces of a mass-produced object) has a length of 26 symbols.
While the Indus Valley Civilization is often characterized as a literate society on the evidence of these inscriptions, this description has been challenged on linguistic and archaeological grounds: it has been pointed out that the brevity of the inscriptions is unparalleled in any known premodern literate society. Based partly on this evidence, a controversial paper by Farmer, Sproat, and Witzel (2004) argues that the Indus system did not encode language, but was instead similar to a variety of non-linguistic sign systems used extensively in the Near East and other societies. Others have claimed on occasion that the symbols were exclusively used for economic transactions, but this claim leaves unexplained the appearance of Indus symbols on many ritual objects, many of which were mass-produced in __molds__. No parallels to these mass-produced inscriptions are known in any other early ancient civilizations.__[46__]

In a 2009 study by P. N. Rao et al. published in __Science__, computer scientists, comparing the pattern of symbols to various linguistic scripts and nonlinguistic systems, including DNA and a computer programming language, found that the Indus script's pattern is closer to that of spoken words, supporting the hypothesis that it codes for an as-yet-unknown language.Farmer, Sproat, and Witzel have disputed this finding, pointing out that Rao et al. did not actually compare the Indus signs with "real-world nonlinguistic systems" but rather with "two wholly artificial systems invented by the authors, one consisting of 200,000 randomly ordered signs and another of 200,000 fully ordered signs, that they spuriously claim represent the structures of all real-world nonlinguistic sign systems". Farmer et al. have also demonstrated that a comparison of a nonlinguistic system like __medieval__ __heraldic signs__ with __natural languages__ yields results similar to those that Rao et al. obtained with Indus signs. They conclude that the method used by Rao et al. cannot distinguish linguistic systems from nonlinguistic ones.

Photos of many of the thousands of extant inscriptions are published in the Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions (1987, 1991), edited by A. Parpola and his colleagues. Publication of a final third volume, which will reportedly republish photos taken in the 1920s and 1930s of hundreds of lost or stolen inscriptions, along with many discovered in the last few decades, has been announced for several years, but has not yet found its way into print. For now, researchers must supplement the materials in the Corpus by study of the tiny photos in the excavation reports of Marshall (1931), Mackay (1938, 1943), Wheeler (1947), or reproductions in more recent scattered sources.

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The most significant achievement of Chinese civilization in the Shang period was, the extensive practice of writing which is attested for the first time in this era. "Most of the Shang writing are derived from the oracle bone inscriptions though some also come from bronzes; the bronze inscriptions of the Shang age are usually much shorter than those of later periods and a more primitive script is used than that on the oracle bones"(Milton 1994). It is more than probable that the Shang wrote also on wood, bamboo and silk, but all of these are perishable materials, so none have survived. The Shang writing as represented by the oracle inscriptions is a highly developed and sophisticated form. There is no doubt that the language is Chinese, and one author state that this is a striking proof of the correctness of the Chinese feeling of identity with the ancient inhabitants of their land. While Chinese script is not the oldest in the world, it is the one that has been in use continuously for the longest period of time. The Shang inscriptions provide over 3,000 characters and of these over 1,000 have been deciphered. Many of these characters are quite the same as the present ones. "The stage of writing reached by the Shang was already of considerable stylization and it leads one to assume that and earlier development of the script must have necessarily taken place with a duration of at least a few hundred years"(Milton 1994). This could have occurred either during the Hsia or at the very beginning he the Shang. Ancient Chinese, from the Chou period on, shows that while its basic structure was similar to modern Chinese it was much less homophonic than the modern language.

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The __Phoenician writing system__ was adapted from the Proto-Caananite script in around the 11th century BC, which in turn borrowed ideas from__Egyptian hieroglyphics__. This writing system was an __abjad__ — that is, a __writing system__ in which only consonants are represented. This script was adapted by the __Greeks__, who adapted certain consonantal signs to represent their vowels. The __Cumae alphabet__, a __variant__ of the early Greek alphabet gave rise to the __Etruscan alphabet__, and its own descendants, such as the __Latin alphabet__ and __Runes__. Other descendants from the __Greek alphabet__ include the __Cyrillic alphabet__, used to write __Russian__, among others. The Phoenician system was also adapted into the__Aramaic script__, from which the __Hebrew script__ and also that of __Arabic__ are descended. The __Tifinagh__ script (Berber languages) is descended from the Libyco-Berber script which is assumed to be of Phoenician origin.



Art of the ancient civilizations that grew up in the area around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, now in Iraq. Mesopotamian art was largely used to glorify powerful dynasties, and often reflected the belief that kingship and the divine were closely interlocked.
Sumerian (3500–2300 BC) The first of the powerful Mesopotamian civilizations, Sumer was concentrated in the cities of Ur, Eridu, and Uruk in southern Mesopotamia. The Sumerians built temples on top of vast ziggurats (stepped towers) and also vast, elaborately decorated palaces. Sculptures include erect, stylized figures carved in marble and characterized by clasped hands and huge eyes; those found in the Abu Temple, Tell Asmar, date from 2700 BC. Earlier sculptures in alabaster, such as the Female Head (3000 BC; Iraq Museum, Baghdad), show a greater naturalism and sensitivity. Inlay work is seen in theStandard of Ur (2500 BC), a box decorated with pictures in lapis lazuli, shell, and red sandstone. The Sumerians, who are thought to have invented writing about 3000 BC, produced many small, finely carved cylindrical seals made of marble, alabaster, carnelian, lapis lazuli, and stone. The Sumerians, like the ancient Egyptians who were more or less their contemporaries, believed in an afterlife, and so their tombs were well furnished with art, furniture, and other items to prepare them for the next world.

Akkadian (2300–2150 BC) The Akkadian invaders quickly assimilated Sumerian styles. The stele (decorated upright slab) Victory of Naram-Sin (2200 BC; Louvre, Paris), carved in relief, depicts a military campaign of the warlike Akkadians. The technical and artistic sophistication of bronze sculpture is illustrated by the Head of an Akkadian King (2200 BC; Iraq Museum, Baghdad).

Assyrian (1400–600 BC) The characteristic Assyrian art form was narrative relief sculpture. Unlike the other southern Mesopotamian peoples, the Assyrians had access to large quantities of stone, and their many carved reliefs have consequently survived well. These shallow carvings were used to decorate palaces, for example, the Palace of Ashurbanipal (7th centuryBC). Its finely carved reliefs include dramatic scenes of a lion hunt, now in the British Museum, London. Winged bulls with human faces, carved partially in the round, stood as sentinels at the royal gateways (Louvre, Paris).

Babylonian (625–538 BC) Babylon came to artistic prominence in the 6th century BC, when it flourished under King Nebuchadnezzar II. He built the __Hanging Gardens of Babylon__, a series of terraced gardens. The Babylonians practised all the Mesopotamian arts and excelled in brightly coloured glazed tiles, used to create relief sculptures. An example is the Ishtar Gate (about 575 BC) from the Temple of Bel, the biblical Tower of Babel (Pergamon Museum, Berlin, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

A Babylonian relief sculpture of a bull made of brightly glazed tiles on the restored Ishtar Gate. The original sculpture dates from around 575 BC and stood on the gate of the Temple of Bel, the biblical Tower of Babel in Babylon.(Image © Corel)

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Ancient Egyptian art refers to the style of painting, sculpture, crafts and architecture developed by the civilization in the lower Nile Valley from 5000 BC to 300 AD. __Ancient Egyptian__ art was expressed in paintings and sculptures & was both highly stylized and __symbolic__. Much of the surviving art comes from tombs and monuments and thus there is an emphasis on life after death and the preservation of knowledge of the past.

Magical stela (detail) Dynasty 30, reign of Nectanebo II, 380-343 B.C. Graywacke, h. 32 7/8 in. Fletcher Fund, 1950 50.85

In a more narrow sense, Ancient Egyptian art refers to the canonical __2nd__ and __3rd Dynasty__ art developed in Egypt from __3000 BC__ and used until the 3rd century. Most elements of Egyptian art remained remarkably stable over that 3000 year period. There wasn't strong outside influence. The same basic conventions and quality of observation started at a high level and remained near that level over the period.

Statue of Hatshepsut Thebes, Deir el-Bahri, Dynasty 18, ca. 1473-1458 B.C. Limestone (originally painted), h. 76 3/4 in. Rogers Fund, 1929 29.3.2

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Various sculptures, seals, __pottery__, gold jewelry and anatomically detailed figurines in__terracotta__, bronze and steatite have been found at the excavation sites.
A number of gold, terra-cotta and stone figurines of girls in dancing poses reveal the presence of some __dance__ form. Also, these terra-cotta figurines included cows, bears, monkeys, and dogs. __Sir John Marshall__ is known to have reacted with surprise when he saw the famous Indus bronze statuette of a slender-limbed dancing girl in Mohenjo-daro:
… When I first saw them I found it difficult to believe that they were prehistoric; they seemed to completely upset all established ideas about early art, and culture. Modeling such as this was unknown in the ancient world up to the Hellenistic age of Greece, and I thought, therefore, that some mistake must surely have been made; that these figures had found their way into levels some 3000 years older than those to which they properly belonged. … Now, in these statuettes, it is just this anatomical truth which is so startling; that makes us wonder whether, in this all-important matter, Greek artistry could possibly have been anticipated by the sculptors of a far-off age on the banks of the Indus.

Many crafts "such as shell working, ceramics, and agate and glazed steatite bead making" were used in the making of necklaces, bangles, and other ornaments from all phases of Harappan sites and some of these crafts are still practiced in the subcontinent today.__[38__] Some make-up and toiletry items (a special kind of combs (kakai), the use of __collyrium__ and a special three-in-one toiletry gadget) that were found in Harappan contexts still have similar counterparts in modern India.__[39__] Terracotta female figurines were found (ca. 2800-2600 BCE) which had red color applied to the "manga" (line of partition of the hair).__[39__]
Seals have been found at __Mohenjo-daro__ depicting a figure standing on its head, and another sitting cross-legged in what some call a __yoga__-like pose (see image, the so-called Pashupati, below).
A harp-like instrument depicted on an Indus seal and two shell objects found at Lothal indicate the use of stringed musical instruments. The Harappans also made various toys and games, among them cubical __dice__ (with one to six holes on the faces), which were found in sites like Mohenjo-Daro.__[40__]

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Although the early stage of the Shang period (16th to 13th centuries BC) has adapted and perpetuated much of the neolithic art of the Longshan Culture 龍山 and Erlitou Culture 二里頭, the industrialization of bronze casting and the production of ritual tools and objects for daily use for the ruling elite lead to a quick development of new expressions in types and decorations especially in the field of __ritual bronze vessels__ (qingtong liqi 青銅禮器).

The tripod vessel types of ding 鼎, li 鬲, jue 爵 and jia 斝 are direct descendants of neolithic ceramic pottery. These vessels served for ritual purposes during the sacrifices of the ancestor cult to offer wine, water and food, probably also during banquets, and a huge amount of vessels served deceased members of the elite after their death. Shang tombs like that of Queen Fu Hao (Fuhao) 婦好 contained dozens of those bronze vessels, but also pottery and jades. Scholars divide the vessel styles into five different stages. In the oldest pieces, the decoration lines were carved into the mould and thus stand proud on the surface of the vessels. While the lines of the oldest stage were uniformly thin, stage II decorations show thick and thin lines and patterns of stilised flowers, clouds (leiwen 雷文) and dragons. In the next step the decoration covers more and more of the vessel's surface, and within the labyrinth-like patterns the face of a "voracious" animal (later called taotie 饕餮) is hidden. The last two styles are characterized by the accentuation of the animal faces, either by minimizing the size of the surrounding clouds or by rising the face in a high relief. Bronze vessels in the south are different from that in the north, especially in the later phase of the Shang period. Zun and youtype vessels of the south are often formed in the shape of animals (elephant, rams, tigers devouring a man). Very exceptional are the bronze tools of Sanxingdui 三星堆 in modern Sichuan. Forms, shapes, motifs and patterns are very different from the bronze vessels and tools from the Central Plain and the Yangtse region.

There are two other kinds of __bronze tools__that shall be mentioned here: __music instruments__ like bells (nao 鐃, zheng 鉦, ling鈴) and drums gu 鼓, and ritual axes (yue 鉞) with human faces, mouth and eyes being spared out.

While there are some types of ritual __jades__that were also inherited from the neolithic age, the cong 琮 tubes and the bi 璧 disks, Shang jades show a great variety of shapes and patterns, nephrite pieces in the shape of animals or persons are very common in Shang finds.
Admiring the impressive bronze vessels, we often forget __pottery or ceramics__ that were also an important part of Shang handicraft industry. Some ceramic vessels with white or grey colour are incised with patterns that are identical with the decorations seen on the bronze vessels. Single pots are covered with a thin glaze - the earliest examples of glazed pottery in China. __Lacquerware__ is determined to decay easily, and there are only single surviving fragments being discovered in Shang tombs.

Shang buildings and __palaces__ as discovered in Anyang and Erligang were already huge buildings that were entirely made of perishable materials. The basement was pounded earth (hangtu 夯土), and the main pillars were protected from rotting by a stone base. Royal __tombs__ as constructed in the last period of Shang were huge complexes with a deep shaft and longs ramps leading down into the burial chamber.

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Sarcophagus of a Phoenician woman (c. 400 BC.) found in the necropolis of Magharat Tabloun in Sidon (The Louvre)

Records of inscriptions from the ancient Eastern Mediterranean show that the Phoenicians were famous for their crafts and artistic work in metal, ivory, glass, terra cotta, wood and stone in addition to weaving and dyeing purple wool and fabrics. However, they were not given fare recognition by critics because Phoenician art borrowed from the mix of civilizations they interacted with through their trade.
Phoenician artisans were more concerned with what the object looked like rather than its strict stylistic orthodoxy. Phoenician art served many purposes which include religious, trade or others but was meant to appeal to a visual impact and communicate ideas.

Phoenician objet d'art that we find today is comprised of rather small objects. Most are made of gold, ivory, semiprecious stones, silver, glass, bronze and terra cotta. Also, large stone objects survive. Less durable items such as carved wood and fabric are almost very rare or not to be found at all.

Most of what survives, as in many other civilizations, pertains to burial or funerary context. Grave supplies include jewelry, scarabs, amulets, terra cotta, amulets, metal bowls, ivory boxes, cosmetic items, and possessions that denote rank and status and last but not least stone sarcophagi (Moscati 1988: 292-99, 328-53, 370-93,394-403).

Phoenician art is found both in temples and in tombs. However, this should not be taken to mean that there art was created for the dead or to the worship of gods. A lot still remains to be discovered even when most of what has surfaced comes from the latter which often is the repository of art that might not have survived.

Phoenician trade was instrumental in the expanse to which Phoenician art had reached. Around 1000 BC, Phoenician goods were to be found around the far corners of the Mediterranean and influenced the cultures of these areas such as the Greeks, Etruscans, North Africans and Iberians just as much as the Assyrians and the other Semites.
Very few archaeological sites in Phoenicia, the motherland, were adequately excavated with the exception of Sarepta (Pritchard 1978). Therefore known Phoenician art come from the diaspora of Phoenician colonies and trading posts. It is found in quantity at well excavated Phoenician sites in Spain, Sicily, Sardinia and Tunisia. These artifacts, most dating to the seventh through second centuries BC., though they differ from those made by eastern Phoenicians, which date mainly from the ninth to eighth centuries BC. Further, Phoenician art is often conservative in nature and the same motifs are reproduced in similar ways for centuries.

Eclecticism is the identifying hallmark of Phoenician art. Its unusual combinations and modifications of motifs and designs borrowed from a variety of foreign styles and designs The eclectic Phoenician usage is unique because other cultures and traditions would not use or depict a motif out of context of a certain religion as did the Phoenician.

Phoenician artists often used elements of Egyptian, Assyrian, or Greek in their designs. This carried over to color selection and combination. Phoenician artists sometimes imitated specific foreign styles rather than modifying them. This makes it difficult to recognize which is copied Phoenician and which is authentic.

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The Big Picture

Religion also was a significant part of life in all early civilizations . Polytheism was practiced by most early civilizations while monotheism was first practiced by the Hebrews. The monotheism of Abraham became the foundation of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The essential beliefs, traditions, and customs of Judaism include: a belief in one God (monotheism), the Torah, which contains written records and beliefs of Hebrews, and the Ten Commandments, which state moral and religious conduct.



In ancient Mesopotamia, the facts of nature were attributed to the workings of divine forces. Thus, there were many gods and goddesses, including 4 creator gods. The forces of Taimat andAbzu, who had emerged from a primordial chaos of water, created the 4 creator gods. The ancient Greek story of creation tells of primordial beings who emerged from Chaos, too. [SeeGreek creation story.]

  1. The highest of the 4 gods was the sky-god An, the over-arching bowl of heaven.
  2. Next came Enlil who could either produce raging storms or act to help man.
  3. Nin-khursag was the earth goddess.
  4. The 4th god was Enki, the water god and patron of wisdom.

These 4 Mesopotamian gods did not act alone, but consulted with an assembly of 50, which is called the Annunaki. Innumerable spirits and demons shared the world with the Annunaki.

How the Gods Helped Mankind

The gods bound people together in their social groups and were believed to have provided what they needed to survive. The Sumerians developed stories and festivals to explain and harness help for their physical environment. Once a year came the new year and with it, the Sumerians thought the gods decided what would happen to mankind for the coming year.

Otherwise, the gods and goddesses were more concerned with their own feasting, drinking, fighting, and arguing. But they could be prevailed upon to help on occasion if ceremonies were performed to their liking. The priests were responsible for the sacrifices and rituals that were essential for the help of the gods. In addition, property belonged to the gods, so priests administered it. This made the priests valuable and important figures in their communities. And so, the priestly class developed.

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Ancient Egyptian religion encompasses the various religious beliefs and rituals practiced in __ancient Egypt__over more than 3,000 years, from the __predynastic period__ until the adoption of __Christianity__ in the early centuries AD. Initially these beliefs centered on the worship of __multiple deities__ who represented various forces of nature, thought patterns and power, expressed by the means of complex and varied archetypes. By the time of the 18th dynasty they began to be viewed as aspects of a single deity who existed apart from nature, similar to __trinitarian__ concepts also found in __Christianity__: the belief that one god can exist in more than one person.__[1__]
These deities were worshipped with offerings and prayers, in local and household shrines as well as in formal temples managed by priests. Different gods were prominent at different periods of Egyptian history, and the myths associated with them changed over time, so Egypt never had a coherent hierarchy of deities or a unified mythology. However, the religion contained many overarching beliefs. Among these were the__divinity__ of the __pharaoh__, which helped to politically unify the country,__[2__] and complex beliefs about an __afterlife__, which gave rise to the Egyptians' elaborate __burial customs__.

VIDEO: Book of the Dead -

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(1) book of the dead


In view of the large number of figurines found in the Indus valley, it has been widely suggested that the Harappan people worshipped a Mother goddess symbolizing fertility. However, this view has been disputed by S. Clark.Some Indus valley seals show swastikas which are found in later religions and mythologies, especially in __Indian religions__ such as __Hinduism__, __Buddhism__ and __Jainism__. The earliest evidence for elements of __Hinduism__ are present before and during the __early Harappan__ period. Phallic symbols resembling the Hindu __Siva lingam__ have been found in the Harappan remains.
Many Indus valley seals show animals. One famous seal shows a figure seated in a posture reminiscent of the __Lotus position__ and surrounded by animals was named after __Pashupati__ (lord of cattle), an epithet of __Shiva__ and __Rudra__.
In the earlier phases of their culture, the Harappans buried their dead; however, later, especially in the __Cemetery H culture__ of the late Harrapan period, they also __cremated__ their dead and buried the ashes in burial urns, a transition notably also alluded to in the __Rigveda__, where the forefathers "both cremated (agnidagdhá-) and uncremated (ánagnidagdha-)" are invoked (__RV 10__.15.14).



The word dynasty refers to the ruler of a country and his or her successors, generally chosen from his or her descendants. Archaeologists and historians break up much of China's history according to these different families of rulers. In the case of the Shang, the word is also used by archaeologists and historians to describe the civilizations of the same period.
The exact myths and religious beliefs of the Shang, along with other Paleolithic human ancestors in China, are lost in the dark mists of time, but archaeologists have gathered much information about a period known as the Shang dynasty, which began around 1550 B.C. or earlier. Since it seems likely that the Shang evolved directly from earlier local inhabitants, their beliefs may illustrate much older ideas.

The Shang kings had power not only as rulers but also because they had a personal, religious connection to the deities that could control the outcome of the harvest and all natural life. In the Shang culture, the direct ancestors of the kings and their families, especially the founder Ta I, were believed to intercede with nature or the deities who controlled it and thus to affect the present. These ancestors were revered and honored. The people regularly made sacrifices to them, as well as to different spirits of mountains and rivers.

The highest god in the Shang pantheon was Di (or Ti in the older style of writing Chinese names in the Roman letters used in the West), who was seen as an overall deity with great powers. He was separate from the ancestor gods and did not have his own cult, or group of worshipers devoted to him. Besides the offerings of grain, wine, and animals made to ancestors and other figures, the religious sacrifices apparently included humans, today generally thought to be prisoners from outside the kingdom. Their bodies have been found in many excavations.


One of the most interesting features of Shang times was the use of special bones to ask questions about the future, a process called divination, or fortune-telling. Questions were inscribed on the bones, called oracle bones, then heated with a bronze poker. The cracks that appeared provided answers to the questions, which were then recorded on the bones. The related rituals included sacrifices and have provided much information about Shang times. Scholars say that the rituals changed over time; eventually, the kings used them simply to prove that their decisions had been correct. But the impulse itself to divine or see the future - and therefore to control it - remained a powerful one. By no later than the eighth century B.C. the stalks of yarrow plants (also called milfoil) were being used to read the future. The system was set down in the I Ching, or Book of Changes. Newer systems of thought did not displace fortune-telling but instead gave new explanations and, in some cases, different methods. Magnetic needles seem to have been introduced into feng shui (a form of divination that uses geography to determine good and bad energies that affect future events) around the 11th century. Along with standardized manuals, they altered the science but retained its basic core and purpose.

Ancestor Worship

The people of the early Shang culture, like all who followed them in China, revered their ancestors. Ancestors were considered able to talk to the all-important god, and, in some cases, they seem to have been treated much as we would treat a god today.

The importance of ancestors in Asian thought can be confusing to those raised in different traditions. There are two general schools of thought common not only in ancient China but also in other Asian cultures. Both begin with the idea that the living and dead continue to be very important to each other. The spiritual realm of the dead is similar to that of the living. The Shang people believed the land of the dead was real and physically close, perhaps on the mountains on the horizon or the islands off in the mist at sea. Someone who is a king in this life, for example, will be a king when dead.

Family ancestors are remembered at a family altar in the home. The names are recorded on tablets that represent and, in some cases, may be inhabited by the person. Sacrifices are regularly made to help feed the deceased. In return, the spirits of the dead can help the living by interceding with the powers in the spirit world who affect the here and now.

Another strand of ancestor worship honors the ancestors of clans and important founders of a community. While these ancestral figures started as real people, over time their features would become generalized. These ancestors would generally stretch back much further - perhaps forty generations rather than five or six. In this tradition, ancestors were honored in special halls, which played their own important role in villages and cities as centers for feasts and even services like schools.

Connected with the richest and most powerful families of the present - who were the only people who could afford to maintain the halls - these ancestors were seen as powerful and influential in the other world. In some cases, these figures would be honored by many outside the family line, in much the same way as a Westerner might remember and honor an important political or military leader of the past. The figures might then be revered as local gods in the informal folk religion. As time passed, some might gain popularity in other areas as well. Occasionally this process happened on its own, as word of a deity's particular powers spread. Other times, an emperor or regional governor might use the god to win friends and influence others. Honoring the local god would be good politics, since it would please those who were part of his or her cult or lineage

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In theology_, monotheism (from Greek μόνος "only" and θεός "God") is the belief that only one Godexists.The concept of "monotheism" tends to be dominated by the concept of God in the__Abrahamic religions__, such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the __Platonic__ concept of __God__ as put forward by __Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite__, as well as the __Advaita__, __Dvaita__ and __Vishishtadvaita__philosophies of __Hinduism__

Due to its Abrahamic association, the concept of monotheism has often been defined in contrast to polytheistic and pantheistic religions, and monotheism tends to overlap with other unitary concepts, such as monism.However, there are several examples of pantheistic religions that only adher to one divinity, and therefore, in its strict sense, could be regarded as monotheist, for example Zoroastrianism.
Whereas monotheism is a self-description of religions subsumed under this term, there is no equivalent self-description for polytheist religions: monotheism asserts itself by opposing polytheism, while polytheism does not use the same argumentative device, as it includes a concept of divine unity despite worshipping a plethora of gods.]

Ostensibly monotheistic religions may still include concepts of a plurality of the divine. For example, the Trinity in which God is one being in three personal dimensions (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). Additionally, most Christian churches teach Jesus to be two natures (divine and human), each possessing the full attributes of that nature, without mixture or intermingling of those attributes. This view is not shared by all Christians, notably the __Oriental Orthodox (miaphysite) churches.
Although Christian theology reserves worship for the Divine, the distinction between worshipping the divine nature of Jesus but not the human nature of Jesus can be difficult for non-Christians (and even Christian laity) to follow. Christians of the __Catholic__ tradition __venerate__ the __Saints__, (among them Mary), as human beings who had remarkable qualities, lived their faith in God to the extreme and are believed to continue to assist in the process of salvation for others.The concept of Monotheism in Islam and Judaism however, is far more direct where God's oneness is unquestionable and there is no room for the plurality of God.

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Christianity (from the __Greek__ word Xριστός, Khristos, "__Christ__", literally "anointed one") is a__monotheisticreligionbased on the life and teachings of __Jesus of Nazareth__ as presented in the __New Testament__.
Christians believe Jesus is the __son of God__, __God having become man__ and the __savior of humanity__. Christians, therefore, commonly refer to Jesus as __Christ__ or __Messiah__.

Adherents of the Christian faith, known as __Christians__, believe that Jesus is the Messiah__prophesied__ in the __Hebrew Bible__ (the part of __scripture__ common to Christianity and __Judaism__). The foundation of Christian theology is expressed in the early Christian ecumenical creeds, which contain claims predominantly accepted by followers of the Christian faith.__[5__] These professions state that Jesus suffered, died from __crucifixion__, was buried, and was __resurrected__ from the dead to open heaven to those who believe in him and trust him for the remission of their sins (__salvation__).They further maintain that Jesus bodily __ascended__ into __heaven__ where he rules and reigns with __God the Father__. Most __denominations__ teach that Jesus will __return__ to __judge__ all humans, living and dead, and grant__eternal life__ to his followers. He is considered the __model__ of a __virtuous__ life, and both the __revealer__ and physical __incarnation__ of __God__. Christians call the message of Jesus Christ __the Gospel__ ("good news") and hence refer to the earliest written accounts of his ministry as __gospels__.
Christianity began as a Jewish sectand is classified as an __Abrahamic religion__.Originating in the eastern __Mediterranean__, it quickly grew in size and influence over a few decades, and by the 4th century had become the dominant religion within the __Roman Empire__.
During the __Middle Ages__, most of the remainder of Europe was __Christianized__, with Christians also being a (sometimes large) religious minority in the __Middle East__, __North Africa__, and parts of __India__.__[13__]Following the __Age of Discovery__, through __missionary work__ and colonization, Christianity spread to the__Americas__, __Australasia__, and the rest of the world, therefore Christianity is a major influence in the__shaping of Western civilization__.

As of the early 21st century, Christianity has between 1.5 billion and 2.1 billion adherents. Christianity represents about a quarter to a third of the world's population and is the __world's largest religion__. In addition, Christianity is the __state religion__ of several countries.

VIDEO: Peter and Paul -
VIDEO: Bible in Context-

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Judaism (from the Latin Iudaismus, derived from the Greek Ioudaïsmos, and ultimately from the __Hebrew__ יהודה, Yehudah, "__Judah__"; in Hebrew: יַהֲדוּת, Yahadut) is a set of beliefs and practices originating in the Hebrew Bible, also known as the __Tanakh__, and explored and explained in later texts such as the __Talmud__. Jews consider Judaism to be the expression of the covenantal relationship __God__ developed with the __Children of Israel__—originally a group of __around a dozen tribes__ claiming descent from the Biblical __patriarch__ __Jacob__ and later the __Jewish people__.According to most branches, God revealed his laws and __commandments__ to __Moses__ on __Mount Sinai__ in the form of both the __Written__ and __Oral Torah__.However, __Karaite Judaism__ maintains that only the Written Torah was revealed, and liberal denominations such as __Humanistic Judaism__ may be nontheistic.
Judaism __claims a historical continuity__ spanning well __over 3000 years__. It is one of the oldest __monotheistic__ __religions__, and the oldest to survive into the present day. Its texts, traditions and values have inspired later __Abrahamic religions__, including __Christianity__, __Islam__ and the __Baha'i Faith__.Many aspects of Judaism have also directly or indirectly influenced __secular____Western__ __ethics__ and __civil law__.

The current world Jewish population is estimated over 13 million, of which about 40% reside in Israel and 40% in the United States. This includes Jews by birth, and those who have converted to Judaism.

In more conservative branches such as __Orthodox Judaism__, conversion entails a full commitment to Jewish observance. At least in principle, these branches expect a similar level of commitment from every Jew. Historically, __special courts__ enforced __Jewish law__; today, these courts still exist but the practice of Judaism is mostly voluntary.__[16__] Authority on theological and legal matters is not vested in any one person or organization, but in the sacred texts and the many __rabbis__ and scholars who interpret these texts.

VIDEO: Origins of the Hebrew Bible -

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