It wasn't until the end of the Ice Age around 10,000 B.C., that many things began to change which affected the people and the land. When the ice melted, it caused flooding to cover the lowland areas and new plants started to emerge. People started to farm animals and crops. The changing climate created an environment which encouraged people to settle in one place. The development of agriculture helped people to settle in villages and create communities. When they had enough crops in storage, some of the people developed specialized trades or crafts. This formed an economy since the goods could be traded. This led to the first civilizations. Since there were no written records, archaeologists have pieced together the history of the first civilizations by studying artifacts and ruins which have been discovered over time. It has been discovered that the first civilizations were distinquished by a class system of rich and poor people. A second characteristic of civilizations was that each had a ruler, priests, administrators and specialists. You will find that the first civilizations were built around rivers. The rivers were very important to the development of civilizations. The rivers provided water for farming crops which had become a catalyst for growth of each civilization.
CATAL HUYUK, another early settlement, was a large, busy city in what is now Turkey. It dates from 6,000 - 5,000 B.C. and was 32 acres. They had irrigation which brought water to the crops. They also had obsidian, a glass, which brought them wealth. It was used to make tools, weapons, and mirrors. These were items that could be traded. Their houses were made of mud, brick and wood and were connected where entrance was gained from the roofs. Shrines were in some of the buildings. In the shrines, plastered bulls' heads were hung on the walls maybe representing a bull-god. Red vultures were also painted on the walls attacking headless corpses.
STONEHENGE was located in England. It refers to a special construction made with giant stones. These constructions were used for burial complexes while some were ceremonial areas. Their use may have been linked to the study of astronomy and the seasons. The large stones weighed an average of 28.6 tons and were brought from the Marlborough Downs some 17.4 miles to the north. They must have had a difficult time moving them to this location. Transporting them probably required sledges, rollers, and ropes. One thousand people would have been required to move one stone.
Egypt was bounded by deserts but depended on the flooding of the Nile River for fertile land. By 5000 BC people lived all along the river. They produced large quantities of grain. Egypt was originally divided into two kingdoms, but was united in 3200 BC by the Pharaoh Menes. The Pharaoh had great power in life and after death he was believed to live among the gods. The Kings and Pharaohs had tombs built for themselves which contained everything needed in the afterlife. They had treasures they needed in the next world which were made by armies of workers. The tombs were in great pyramids. Their body was preserved by a process called mummification so it could continue on the journey to the afterlife. The body was enclosed in a mummy-case. The Egyptians were the first to use the writing system of hieroglyphics. We have learned from writings which have been found, that the Egyptians worshipped many gods.
Minoan civilization was on the Island of Crete in 2000-1450 BC. It was named after a legendary King, Minos. They built many large cities and they were connected by roads. The civilization had a rich and lively world. Each city was centered around a large palace. The palaces were several stories high and had very large rooms. The rooms were painted with scenes of nature. They had four large palaces of which Knossos was the largest and it contained a residence for a king and queen, religious areas, workshops for the craftsmen, and a schoolroom. The palaces were royal residences and served as center of the government. Basements were used to store the surplus of grain, oil, wine and honey in stone boxes. Craftsmen also made jewelry and pottery. There is indication that they had bull leaping ceremonies which took place in the courtyard of the palace. The men and women would grab on to the bull's horns and turn somersaults over the animal. The people worshipped the great mother goddess. Shrines to the snake goddess were also found in their houses.
Mycenaean civilization was established in Greece about 2000 BC. The people were very warlike so their cities were like fortresses. They gained wealth through trade and by raiding other cities. Their trade focused on areas around the Mediterranean. The Myceneans buried their kings in shaft graves which went straight down in solid rock. They placed objects of bronze, gold, and silver by their bodies. A death mask of gold was recovered from an ancient Mycenean tomb.
Indus Valley was the location of the first civilization of India about 2500 - 1500 BC. This development was around the Indus and Ganges River. In the center of the cities was a storage area for grain called a citadel. This suggest that the livlihood of the people was on farming. Houses were built in rows with streets and had a system of drains and sewers. The houses were built around courtyards.
China's earliest civilizations were around three large rivers: Yellow River, Yangtse, and West River as they are known today. The farmers needed the rivers for growing crops and for transportation. They also worried about floods and invasions from people of the North. This caused them to focus on defenses against attacks and control of the floods. The Shang, 1500 - 1028 BC, was the first ruling dynasty. The people lived in wooden houses and the civilization had palaces, store rooms, and tombs for kings. Silk was an important cloth and worn only by the rich. Bronze was used for ornamental purposes. Bones were used as oracles to foretell the future. Questions to gods were carved in the bones before they were heated. Cracks in the bones across the writing gave the gods' answers.
Nichols, Peter. Archaeology: The Study of the Past. Austin, Texas: Eakin Press, 1988.
Corbisley, Mike. The Ancient World. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1990.
Briquebec, John. The Ancient World. New York: Warwick Press, 1990.
Oliphant, Margaret. The Earliest Civilizations. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.
The Visual Dictionary of Ancient Civilizations. New York: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc. , 1994.
THE FOLLOWING IS A LIST OF ALL LINKS REFERENCED IN ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS:
JERICHO - http://www.pathfinder.com/travel/maps/JERICHF.html
CATAL HUYUK - http://www.blwd.k12.pa.us/~jlf/catalhuyuk.html
STONEHENGE - http://www.englishheritage.org.uk/stone2.htm
MESOPOTAMIAN - http://188.8.131.52/organiza/museums/freer/html/packet_mesopotamia_.htm
EGYPT - http://www.emory.edu/CARLOS/EKYSSEY/EGYPT/nilemap.html
MINOAN - http:/j/devlab.cs.dartmouth.edu/history/bronze_age/lessons/12img.html
MYCENAEAN - http://www.vacation.net.gr/p/argmycen.html
INDUS VALLEY - http://www.harappa.com/exhibit.html
CHINA - http://www.unc.edu/~ldk/hist33/shang.htm
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