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Ancient History

giza sphinx-01

Khafre's Pyramid (4th dynasty) and Great Sphinx of Giza

Ancient history is the study of the written past[1] from the beginning of recorded human history to the Early Middle Ages. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 years, with Cuneiform script, the oldest discovered form of coherent writing, from the protoliterate period around the 30th century BC.[2] This is the beginning of history, as opposed to prehistory, according to the definition used by most historians.[3]

The term classical antiquity is often used to refer to history in the Old World from the beginning of recorded Greek history in 776 BC (First Olympiad). This roughly coincides with the traditional date of the founding of Rome in 753 BC, the beginning of the history of ancient Rome, and the beginning of the Archaic period in Ancient Greece. Although the ending date of ancient history is disputed, some Western scholars use the fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476,[4][5] the closure of the Platonic Academy in 529 AD,[6] the death of the emperor Justinian I,[7] the coming of Islam[8] or the rise of Charlemagne[9] as the end of ancient and Classical European history.

In India, the period includes the early period of the Middle Kingdoms,[10][11][12] and, in China, the time up to the Qin Dynasty is included.[13][14]


Main article: Prehistory

Prehistory is a term often used to describe the period before written history. The early human migration[35] patterns in the Lower Paleolithic saw Homo erectus spread across Eurasia. The controlled use of fire occurred about 800 thousand years ago in the Middle Paleolithic. Near 250 thousand years ago, Homo sapiensevolves in Africa. Around 70–60 thousand years ago, modern humans migrated out of Africa along a coastal route to South and Southeast Asia and reached Australia. About 50 thousand years ago, modern humans spread from Asia to the Near East. Europe was first reached by modern humans about 40,000 years ago. Finally, about 15 thousand years ago in the Upper Paleolithic, the migration to the Americas occurred.

The 10th millennium BC is the earliest given date for the invention of agriculture and the beginning of the ancient era. Göbekli Tepe was erected by hunter-gatherers in the 10th millennium BC (c. 11,500 years ago), before the advent of sedentism. Together with Nevalı Çori, it has revolutionized understanding of the Eurasian Neolithic. In the 7th millennium BC, Jiahu culture began in China. By the 5th millennium BC, the late Neolithic civilizations saw the invention of the wheel and the spread of proto-writing. In the 4th millennium BC, the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in the Ukraine-Moldova-Romania region develops. By 3400 BC, "proto-literate" cuneiform is spread in the Middle East.[36] The 30th century BC, referred to as the Early Bronze Age II, saw the beginning of the literate period in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. Around 27th century BC, the Old Kingdom of Egypt and the First Dynasty of Uruk are founded, according to the earliest reliable regnal eras.

Timeline of ancient history

Main article: Timeline of ancient history

Middle to Late Bronze Age

The Bronze Age forms part of the three-age system. In this system, it follows the Neolithic Age in some areas of the world. In the 24th century BC, the Akkadian Empire[37][38] was founded. The First Intermediate Period of Egypt (c. 22nd century BC) was followed by the Middle Kingdom of Egypt between the 21st to 17th centuries BC. The Sumerian Renaissance also developed c. 21st century BC. Around the 18th century BC, the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt began.

By 1600 BC, Mycenaean Greece developed, the beginning of the Shang Dynasty in China emerged and there was evidence of a fully developed Chinese writing system. Also around 1600 BC, the beginning of Hittite dominance of the Eastern Mediterranean region is seen. The time between the 16th to 11th centuries around the Nile is called the New Kingdom of Egypt. Between 1550 BC and 1292 BC, the Amarna Period developed.

Early Iron Age

The Iron Age is the last principal period in the three-age system, preceded by the Bronze Age. Its date and context vary depending on the country or geographical region. During the 13th to 12th centuries BC, the Ramesside Period occurred in Egypt. Around c. 1200 BC, the Trojan War was thought to have taken place.[39] By c. 1180 BC, the disintegration of the Hittite Empire was underway.

In 1046 BC, the Zhou force, led by King Wu of Zhou, overthrows the last king of the Shang Dynasty. The Zhou Dynasty is established in China shortly thereafter. In 1000 BC, the Mannaeans Kingdom begins in Western Asia. Around the 10th to 7th centuries BC, the Neo-Assyrian Empire forms in Mesopotamia. In 800 BC, the rise of Greek city-states begins. In 776 BC, the first recorded Olympic Games are held.

Classical Antiquity

Main article: Classical antiquity

Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered around the Mediterranean Sea, which begins roughly with the earliest-recorded Greek poetry of Homer (9th century BC), and continues through the rise of Christianity and the fall of the Western Roman Empire (5th century AD), ending in the dissolution of classical culture with the close of Late Antiquity.

Such a wide sampling of history and territory covers many rather disparate cultures and periods. "Classical antiquity" typically refers to an idealized vision of later people, of what was, in Edgar Allan Poe's words, "the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome!" In the 18th and 19th centuries AD reverence for classical antiquity was much greater in Western Europe and the United States than it is today. Respect for the ancients of Greece and Rome affected politics, philosophy, sculpture, literature, theatre, education, and even architecture and sexuality.

In politics, the presence of a Roman Emperor was felt to be desirable long after the empire fell. This tendency reached its peak when Charlemagne was crowned "Roman Emperor" in the year 800, an act which led to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire. The notion that an emperor is a monarch who outranks a mere king dates from this period. In this political ideal, there would always be a Roman Empire, a state whose jurisdiction extended to the entire civilized world.

Epic poetry in Latin continued to be written and circulated well into the 19th century. John Milton and even Arthur Rimbaud received their first poetic educations in Latin. Genres like epic poetry, pastoral verse, and the endless use of characters and themes from Greek mythology left a deep mark on Western literature.

In architecture, there have been several Greek Revivals, (though while apparently more inspired in retrospect by Roman architecture than Greek). Still, one needs only to look at Washington, DC to see a city filled with large marble buildings with façades made out to look like Roman temples, with columns constructed in the classical orders of architecture.

In philosophy, the efforts of St Thomas Aquinas were derived largely from the thought of Aristotle, despite the intervening change in religion from paganism to Christianity. Greek and Roman authorities such as Hippocrates and Galen formed the foundation of the practice of medicine even longer than Greek thought prevailed in philosophy. In the French theatre, tragedians such as Molière and Racine wrote plays on mythological or classical historical subjects and subjected them to the strict rules of the classical unities derived from Aristotle's Poetics. The desire to dance like a latter-day vision of how the ancient Greeks did it moved Isadora Duncan to create her brand of ballet. The Renaissance was partly caused by the rediscovery of classic antiquity.[40]


Brief ancient chronology

(Common Era years in astronomical year numbering)

Coming of Islam Early Middle Ages Gupta Empire Late Antiquity Roman Empire Maurya Empire Hellenism Classical Greece Achaemenid Empire Roman Kingdom Archaic Greece Neo-Assyrian Empire Mississippian Culture Ancient Pueblo Peoples Bronze Age collapse Hittite Empire sack of Babylon Late Bronze Age Hammurabi Sumerian Renaissance Middle Bronze Age Xia Dynasty Great Pyramid of Giza Harappan Civilization Aegean civilization Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors First Dynasty Bronze Age writing Early Dynastic period of Egypt Egyptian hieroglyphs Early Bronze Age


Stone Age

Mesolithic  —  20,000 BCE  -to-  it varies

Neolithic  —  10,700 BCE  -to-  beginning of Recorded History

Recorded History begins approximately 5,000 BCE  (Cuneiform from 3100 BC)




The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, νέος (nèos, "new") and λίθος (lithos, "stone"): or New Stone era, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 10200 cal. BCE according to the ASPRO chronology in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world.[1] It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age. The Neolithic followed the terminal HoloceneEpipaleolithic period, beginning with the rise of farming, which produced the "Neolithic Revolution", and ending when metal tools became widespread in the Copper Age (chalcolithic) or Bronze Age or developing directly into the Iron Age, depending on the geographical region. The Neolithic is a measured progression of behavioral and cultural characteristics and changes, including the use of wild and domestic crops and the use of domesticated animals.[2]

New findings put the beginning of a culture tentatively called Neolithic back to around 10,700 to 9400 BC in Tell Qaramel in northern Syria, 25 km north of Aleppo.[3] Until those findings are adopted within the archaeological community, the beginning of the Neolithic culture is considered to be in the Levant (Jericho, modern-day West Bank) about By 10200-8800 cal. BCE. It developed directly from the Epipaleolithic Natufian culture in the region, whose people pioneered the use of wild cereals, which then evolved into true farming. The Natufian period was between 12000-10200 cal. BCE and the so called "proto-neolithic" is now included in the PPNA between 10200-8800 cal. BCE. As the Natufians had become dependent on wild cereals in their diet, and a sedentary way of life had begun among them, the climatic changes associated with the Younger Dryas are thought to have forced people to develop farming. By 10200-8800 cal. BCE, farming communities arose in the Levant and spread to Asia Minor, North Africa and North Mesopotamia. Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of plants, both wild and domesticated, which included einkorn wheat, millet and spelt, and the keeping of dogs, sheep and goats. By about 6900-6400 cal. BC, it included domesticated cattle and pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of pottery.[4]

Not all of these cultural elements characteristic of the Neolithic appeared everywhere in the same order: the earliest farming societies in the Near East did not use pottery, and, in Britain, it remains unclear to what extent plants were domesticated in the earliest Neolithic, or even whether permanently settled communities existed. In other parts of the world, such as Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, independent domestication events led to their own regionally-distinctive Neolithic cultures that arose completely independent of those in Europe and Southwest Asia. Early Japanese societies used pottery before developing agriculture.[5][6][7]

Unlike the Paleolithic, when more than one human species existed, only one human species (Homo sapiens sapiens) reached the Neolithic. Homo floresiensis may have survived right up to the very dawn of the Neolithic, about 12,200 years ago.

The term Neolithic derives from the Greekνεολιθικός, neolithikos, from νέοςneos, "new" + λίθοςlithos, "stone", literally meaning "New Stone Age." The term was invented by Sir John Lubbock in 1865 as a refinement of the three-age system.

tab=Early settlements}

Neolithic human settlements include:

The world's oldest known engineered roadway, the Sweet Track in England, dates from 3800 BC and the world's oldest free-standing structure is the neolithic temple of Ggantija in Gozo, Malta.

List of cultures and sites

Note: Dates are very approximate, and are only given for a rough estimate; consult each culture for specific pie time periods.

Early Neolithic
Periodization: The Levant: 10,000 to 8500 BC; Europe: 5000 to 4000 BC; Elsewhere: varies greatly, depending on region.

Middle Neolithic
Periodization: The Levant: 8500 to 6500 BC; Europe: 4000 to 3500 BC; Elsewhere: varies greatly, depending on region.

Later Neolithic
Periodization: 6500 to 4500 BC; Europe: 3500 to 3000 BC; Elsewhere: varies greatly, depending on region.

Periodization: Middle East: 4500 to 3300 BC; Europe: 3000 to 1700 BC; Elsewhere: varies greatly, depending on region. In the Americas, the Eneolithic ended as late as the 1800s for some people.


The Mesolithic Age (Greek: mesos "middle", lithos "stone") is an archaeological concept used to refer to specific groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic. The term developed as a catch-all to refer to material that did not fit into the other categories of prehistory and after the development of radiocarbon dating the arbitrary nature of its definition has become apparent.

The term is used to refer to different time spans in different parts of Eurasia. It was first used to refer to post-Holocene but pre-agricultural material in northwest Europe about 10,000 to 5000 BC but is also applied to material from the Levant (about 20,000 to 9500 BC); in Japan the Jōmon period (about 14,000 to 400 BC) is sometimes called Mesolithic and it is also applied to some cultures from the Indian sub-continent. The term "Epipaleolithic" is often used for areas outside northern Europe but was also the preferred synonym used by French archaeologists until the 1960s.

History of the concept

The three -lithics are subdivisions of the Stone Age in the three-age system developed since classical times and given a modern archaeological meaning by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, a Danish archaeologist, in the early 19th century. Subdivisions of "earlier" and "later" were added to the Stone Age by Thomsen and especially his junior colleague and employee Jens Jacob Asmussen Worsaae. John Lubbock kept these divisions in his work Pre-historic Times in 1865 and introduced the terms Paleolithic ("Old Stone Age") and Neolithic ("New Stone Age") for them. He saw no need for an intermediate category.

When Hodder Westropp introduced the Mesolithic in 1866 as a technology intermediate between Paleolithic and Neolithic a storm of controversy immediately arose around it. A British school led by John Evans denied any need for an intermediate. The ages blended together like the colors of a rainbow, he said. A European school led by Louis Laurent Gabriel de Mortillet asserted that there was a gap between the earlier and later. Edouard Piette claimed to have filled the gap with his discovery of the Azilian Culture. Knut Sterjna offered an alternative in the Epipaleolithic, a continuation of the use of Paleolithic technology. By the time of Vere Gordon Childe's work, The Dawn of Europe (1947), which affirms the Mesolithic, sufficient data had been collected to determine that the Mesolithic was in fact necessary and was indeed a transition and intermediary between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic. [1]

The start and end dates of the Mesolithic vary by geographical region. Childe's recycled view prevails that the term generally covers the period between the end of the Pleistocene and the start of the Neolithic. The times of these events vary greatly; moreover, the various Mesolithics within the span might be as short as roughly a thousand years or as long as roughly 15,000 years depending on the circumstances. If the Mesolithic is more similar to the Paleolithic it is called the Epiplaeolithic. The Paleolithic was an age of purely hunting and gathering while in the Neolithic domestication of plants and animals had occurred. Some Mesolithic people continued with intensive hunting. Others were practising the initial stages of domestication. Some Mesolithic settlements were villages of huts. Others were walled cities. The type of tool remains the diagnostic factor. The Mesolithic featured composite devices manufactured with Mode V chipped stone tools. The Paleolithic had utilized Modes I-IV and the Neolithic mainly abandoned the modes in favor of polished, not chipped, stone tools.

Due to the innovation of a three-stage system for African archaeology by John Hilary Goodman and Clarence van Riet Lowe of South Africa in the early 20th century, translations of "Old," "Middle," and "New Stone Age" can no longer be used for Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic. In African archaeology, which applies only from the Sahara southward, Lower Paleolithic is replaced by "Early Stone Age," Middle Paleolithic is replaced by "Middle Stone Age" and Upper Paleolithic by "Later Stone Age." The Mesolithic and Neolithic are not recognized.

Current terminology

The term "Mesolithic" is in competition with another term, "Epipaleolithic", which means the "final Upper Palaeolithic industries occurring at the end of the final glaciation which appear to merge technologically into the Mesolithic".[2]

In the archaeology of northern Europe — for example for archaeological sites in Great Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, Ukraine, and Russia — the term "Mesolithic" is almost always used. In the archaeology of other areas, the term "Epipaleolithic" may be preferred by most authors, or there may be divergences between authors over which term to use or what meaning to assign to each.

  • Some authors use the term "Epipaleolithic" for those cultures that are late developments of hunter-gatherer traditions but not in transition toward agriculture, reserving the term "Mesolithic" for those cultures, like the Natufian culture, that are transitional between hunter-gatherer and agricultural practices.
  • Other authors use the term Mesolithic for a variety of Late Paleolithic cultures subsequent to the end of the last glacial period whether they are transitional towards agriculture or not.

A Spanish scholar, Alfonso Moure, says in this regard:[3]

"In the terminology of prehistoric archeology, the most widespread trend is to use the term 'Epipaleolithic' for the industrial complexes of post-glacial hunter-gatherer groups. Conversely, those that are in course of transition toward artificial food production are assigned to the 'Mesolithic.'"

The Levant

There are two designated periods:

Mesolithic 1 (Kebara culture; 20–18,000 BC to 12,150 BC) followed the Aurignacian or Levantine Upper Paleolithic throughout the Levant. By the end of the Aurignacian, gradual changes took place in stone industries. Small stone tools called Microliths and retouched bladelets can be found for the first time. The microliths of this culture period differ greatly from the Aurignacian artifacts. This period is more properly called Epipaleolithic.

By 20,000 to 18,000 BC the climate and environment had changed, starting a period of transition. The Levant became more arid and the forest vegetation retreated, to be replaced by steppe. The cool and dry period ended at the beginning of Mesolithic 1. The hunter-gatherers of the Aurignacian would have had to modify their way of living and their pattern of settlement to adapt to the changing conditions.

The crystallization of these new patterns resulted in Mesolithic 1. New types of settlements and new stone industries developed.

The inhabitants of a small Mesolithic 1 site in the Levant left little more than their chipped stone tools behind. The industry was of small tools made of bladelets struck off single-platform cores. Besides bladelets, burins and end-scrapers were found. A few bone tools and some ground stone have also been found.

These so-called Mesolithic sites of Asia are far less numerous than those of the Neolithic and the archeological remains are very poor.

The second period, Mesolithic 2, is also called the Natufian culture. The change from Mesolithic 1 to Natufian culture can be dated more closely. The latest date from a Mesolithic 1 site in the Levant is 12,150 BC. The earliest date from a Natufian site is 11,140 BC.[citation needed] This period is characterized by the early rise of agriculture that would later emerge into the Neolithic period.

Natufian culture is commonly split into two subperiods: Early Natufian (12,500–10,800 BC) (Christopher Delage gives a. 13000 - 11500 BP uncalibrated, equivalent to ca. 13,700 to 11,500 BC)[4] and Late Natufian (10,800–9500 BC). The Late Natufian most likely occurred in tandem with the Younger Dryas. Radiocarbon dating places the Natufian culture between 12,500 and 9500 BC, just before the end of the Pleistocene.[5] This period is characterised by the beginning of agriculture.[6]

The earliest known battle occurred during the Mesolithic period at a site in Egypt known as Cemetery 117.


The Mesolithic began with the Holocene warm period around 11,660 BP and ended with the introduction of farming, the date of which varied in each geographical region. Regions that experienced greater environmental effects as the last glacial period ended have a much more apparent Mesolithic era, lasting millennia. In northern Europe, for example, societies were able to live well on rich food supplies from the marshlands created by the warmer climate. Such conditions produced distinctive human behaviors that are preserved in the material record, such as the Maglemosian and Azilian cultures. Such conditions also delayed the coming of the Neolithic until as late as 5000-4000 BC in northern Europe.

As the "Neolithic package" (including farming, herding, polished stone axes, timber longhouses and pottery) spread into Europe, the Mesolithic way of life was marginalized and eventually disappeared. Mesolithic adaptations such as sedentism, population size and use of plant foods are cited as evidence of the transition to agriculture.[7] However in north-Eastern Europe, the hunting and fishing lifestyle continued into the Medieval period in regions less suited to agriculture.

Ceramic Mesolithic

In North-Eastern Europe, Siberia and certain southern European and North African sites, a "ceramic Mesolithic" can be distinguished between 7000-3850 cal BC. Russian archaeologists prefer to describe such pottery-making cultures as Neolithic, even though farming is absent. This pottery-making Mesolithic culture can be found peripheral to the sedentary Neolithic cultures. It created a distinctive type of pottery, with point or knob base and flared rims, manufactured by methods not used by the Neolithic farmers. Though each area of Mesolithic ceramic developed an individual style, common features suggest a single point of origin.[8] The earliest manifestation of this type of pottery may be in the region around Lake Baikal in Siberia. It appears in the Elshan or Yelshanka or Samara culture on the Volga in Russia c. 7000 BC,[9] and from there spread via the Dnieper-Donets culture to the Narva culture of the Eastern Baltic. Spreading westward along the coastline it is found in the Ertebølle culture of Denmark and Ellerbek of Northern Germany, and the related Swifterbant culture of the Low Countries.[10]

Mesolithic sites

Some notable Mesolithic sites:

Ancient History

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Ancient History

Ancient History

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Contents - Ancient History