Australopithecines, c. 2-4 million years ago Homo habilis, c. 1-4 million years ago Homo erectus, c. 100,000 8 million years ago



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Lecture 01:

The Civilizations of Western Asia and Egypt

The First Humans


  • Australopithecines, c. 2-4 million years ago

  • Homo habilis, c. 1-4 million years ago

  • Homo erectus, c. 100,000-1.8 million years ago

  • Homo sapiens

  • Neanderthal, c. 100,000-30,000 B.C.

  • Homo sapiens sapiens, c. 200,000 B.C.


The Hunter-Gatherers of the Paleolithic Age


  • Paleolithic Age, c. 2,500,000-10,000 B.C.

  • Nomadic people

  • Division of labor

  • Fire, 500,000 years ago

  • Cave paintings


The Neolithic Agricultural Revolution (c. 10,000-4000 B.C.)


  • Characteristics: growing plants and domesticating animals

  • Mesolithic Age (c. 10,000 – 7000 B.C.)

  • Independent development of agriculture

  • Middle East, 8000 B.C.

  • Balkans, 6500 B.C.

  • France, Central Europe, and Coastal Mediterranean, 4000 B.C.

  • Western Asia and Nile Valley of Egypt, 6000 B.C.

  • Northwestern and Central India, 7000-5000 B.C.

  • Southeast Asia and South China, 5000 B.C.

  • North China, 6000 B.C.

  • Mesoamerica, 7000-5000 B.C.



Consequences of the Neolithic Revolution


  • Oldest in the Middle East

  • Shift to systematic agriculture

  • Consequences

  • Settled in villages and towns

  • Çatal Hüyük, 6700-5700 B.C.

  • Walled city

  • Mudbrick houses

  • Trade

  • Specialization of crafts

  • Pottery and baskets

  • Flint blades

  • Change in relationship of men and women

  • Men work in the fields and herd animals

  • Women care for children and weave cloth

  • Fixed dwellings and domestication of animals

  • Writing

  • Metalworking



The Rise of Civilization
Characteristics of Civilization


  • Urban focus

  • New political and military structures

  • New social structure based on economic power

  • Economic specialization, surplus of crops

  • Distinct religious structure

  • The development of writing

  • New and significant artistic and intellectual activity **


Early Civilizations Around the World


  • Mesopotamia of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers

  • Valleys of the Indus River

  • Yellow River in northern China

  • Central Asia—Turkmenistan/Uzbekistan

  • Supe River Valley--Peru

  • Why civilization developed

  • Challenge and response

  • Material forces created specialization of labor

  • Management of water resources

  • Religion provided unity and purpose




The Ancient Near East
Civilization in Mesopotamia


  • City-States of Ancient Mesopotamia

  • Sumerian city-states, c. 3000-2350 B.C.

  • Walls

  • Temple atop a ziggurat

  • Gods ruled the cities

  • Kingship divine in origin

  • Economy was agricultural

  • Social groups

  • Nobles

  • Commoners

  • Slaves

Empires in Ancient Mesopotamia
Akkadian Empire, c. 2340-2100 B.C.


  • Semitic people

  • Sargon around 2340 B.C. overran the Sumerian cities and established an empire over most of Mesopotamia**

  • Empire falls about 2100 B.C.

  • Amorites (Old Babylonians)

  • Hammurabi in 1792 B.C. creates a new empire

  • Established a new capital at Babylon

  • Code of Hammurabi

  • Strict justice

  • Penalties according to class

  • Performance of work

  • Marriage and the family

  • Regulations of sexual relations

  • Cultivation of Writing and Sciences

  • Writing in the form of cuneiform (“wedge shaped”)

  • Primarily for record keeping which means retention of knowledge

  • Communicate important ideas

  • Literature - Epic of Gilgamesh

  • Achievements in Math

  • Based on 60 using combinations of 6 and 10

  • Geometry to measure fields and erect buildings

  • Used 60 to chart the heavens

  • Calendar of 12 lunar months (extra month time to time)


Egyptian Empire


  • Nile River flows from central Africa

  • Nile Delta

  • Flooding predictable

  • Food surpluses

  • Nile as transport, unifying Egypt

  • Natural barriers create isolation, protection from invasion

  • Confidence

  • Stability


The Old and Middle Kingdoms


  • Upper and Lower Egypt united, 3100 B.C.

  • Old Kingdom, c. 2686-2125 B.C.

  • Divine kingship: the pharaoh (“great house”)

  • The nomarch


The Middle Kingdom, ca. 2055-1650 B.C.

  • Stability, golden age

  • Concern of the pharaoh for the people


Society and Economy in Ancient Egypt


  • Pharaoh surrounded by an upper class of nobles

  • Merchant class and artisans

  • Most people worked the lands

  • Monogamy and early marriage the norm

  • Women’s property and inheritance remained in her hands



The Culture of Egypt


  • Spiritual life in Egyptian society

  • Provided a sense of security and timelessness

  • Polytheistic with two groups of special importance

  • Sun gods

  • Land gods

  • Egyptian rulers were the “Son of Re”




  • The Pyramids

  • Tombs

  • Great Pyramid




  • Art and Writing

  • Art

  • Profile, semi-profile, frontal art

  • Formulaic and stylized

  • Writing

  • Hieroglyphics

  • Means “priest carvings” or “sacred writings”

  • Never developed into an alphabet



Chaos and a New Order: The New Kingdom


  • Hyksos, ca. 1650 B.C.

  • Horse-drawn chariots

  • Egyptians learned bronze for making farm implements and weapons

  • The New Kingdom, ca. 1550-1070 B.C.

  • Queen Hatshepsut (ca. 1503-1480 B.C.)**

  • Amenhotep IV (Akhnaten, ca. 1364-1347 B.C.)

  • Aten--worship

  • Sea People” drove the Egyptians out of Palestine

  • Empire ends in 1070 B.C.

  • Domination by Libyans, Nubians, Persians & Macedonians


New Centers of Civilization


  • Megalithic structures, 4000 B.C.—Neolithic Europe**

  • The Role of Nomadic Peoples

  • The Impact of the Indo-Europeans

  • From somewhere in the steppe region north of the Black Sea or in southwestern Asia

  • One group into Asia Minor and Anatolia around 1750 B.C. coalesced with people of the Hittite kingdom

  • First to use iron

  • Hittites destroyed by another group of Indo-Europeans ca. 1200 B.C.


The Phoenicians & Children of Israel


  • Palestine

  • Ports of Byblos, Tyre, and Sidon**

  • Traders and colonizers

  • Alphabet

  • The Hebrews: the “Children of Israel”**

  • Semitic-speaking people

  • Religiously important

  • Emerge as distinctive people c. 1200 – 1000 B.C.

  • United Kingdom

  • Saul (c. 1020 – 1000 B.C.)

  • David (c. 1000 – 970 B.C.)

  • Solomon (c. 970-930 B.C.)

  • Control Palestine

  • Temple housed the Ark of the Covenant


The Divided Kingdom


  • Division into the kingdom of Israel with its capital at Samaria and Judah with its capital at Jerusalem

  • Assyrians destroyed Samaria in 722 B.C. and overran the kingdom of Israel

  • Chaldeans defeated the Assyrians and destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

  • Many upper class people of Judah deported to Babylon

  • Persians destroyed the Chaldean kingdom

  • People of Judah allowed to return to Jerusalem


The Spiritual Dimensions of Israel


  • Monotheistic

  • Yahweh: Omnipotent, just, and good

  • Expected goodness from his people or they would be punished

  • Was not removed from the life he created

  • Three aspects of Jewish religion: Covenant, law, the prophets

  • The Assyrian Empire

  • Use of iron weapons, create an empire by 700 B.C.**

  • Ruled by kings with absolute power

  • System of communication

  • Well organized army -- infantrymen and war chariots

  • Use of terror


The Babylonian Empire


  • Conquered Assyria in 612 B.B.

  • King Nebuchadnezzar II (605 – 562 B.C.)—capital at Babylon

  • Conquered by Persians in 539 B.C.


The Persian Empire


  • Indo-European-speaking

  • Under Cyrus the Great (559 – 530 B.C.) huge empire

  • Conquered Assyria in 539 B.C., treated humanely

  • Allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem

  • Reputation for mercy

  • Cambyses (530-522 B.C.), son of Cyrus, conquered Egypt

  • Darius I (521-486 B.C.) extended empire but was defeated by Greeks in 490 B.C.


Civil Administration and the Military


  • Divided into 20 provinces or satrapies

  • Satraps collected tribute, responsible for justice and security

  • System of communication

  • Royal Road

  • All subjects were the king’s servants

  • Professional army of international contingents

  • Cavalry and infantry

  • Isolation of the later kings


Persian Religion


  • Zoroaster

  • Zoroastrianism

  • Monotheistic

  • Ahuramazda, the creator and only god

  • Opposed by an evil spirit: Ahriman

  • Gave all humans free will and the power to chose between right and wrong

  • Each soul faced final evaluation to determine if you go to paradise or an abyss

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