Different phases of biological evolution as people spread over most parts of the world
Introduction of agriculture changes the basic economic framework, followed by innovations associated with civilization, like social hierarchies, culture and government
Gender roles are reshaped
Origin of human groups comes in East Africa between 4 and 2.5 million years ago, with different groups appearing until homo sapiens sapiens l20,000 years ago.
Tool use aids adaptability, and tools continue to improve throughout the period. Pace of change also accelerates as the period continues into the final Stone Age, the Neolithic.
Between 9000 and 7000BCE agriculture is introduced in the Middle East, and by 1000BCE it is known in Asia, Africa, southern Europe and parts of the Americas.
Agriculture changes how society is set up—emphasis on group collaboration, concepts of property, small amounts of trade.
Important innovations like the wheel, use of metals and a writing system (Mesopotamia).
These developments help civilization to emerge—depended on a high level of surplus, freeing others to perform other activities. Other notable achievements include the creation of cities, governments as well as social inequality.
Foundations: Ancient Period
(8000 BCE - 1000 BCE)
Of all the units covered in the AP World History curriculum, Foundations (8000 BCE - 600 CE) spans the largest number of years. It begins with an important marker event – the Neolithic Revolution – and ends after the fall of three major classical civilizations –Rome in the Mediterranean region, Han China, and the Gupta Empire of India.
PERIODIZATION The Foundations time period (8000 BCE to 600 CE) is so vast that there are many ways to divide it into periods or eras. However, the major divisions we will most often wrestle with are the ancient period (8000 BCE – 1000 BCE) and the classical era (1000 BCE – 600 CE). In this case, the ancient period will be the focus with the significant advent of agriculture and around major river valleys, the birth of the world’s first civilizations:
1) Early agricultural and technological development (about 8000 BCE to 3500 BCE) –Small groups of settlers grew into kinship-based villages that practiced both crop cultivation and domestication of animals. Tools and inventions helped villages to stabilize and eventually grow.
2) Development of the earliest civilizations (about 3500 to 1500 BCE) – Villages grew into cities that came to dominate the land around them. Collectively known as the "river valley" civilizations, they include:
Mesopotamia (developed by 3500 BCE or so) – between the Tigris and Euphrates in the Middle East
Egypt (developed by 3000 BCE or so) – along the Nile River in northeastern Africa
Indus Valley people (developed by 2500 BCE or so) – along the Indus River in south central Asia
Shang China (developed by 1700 BCE or so) – along several rivers in the north China plains
A NOTE ABOUT “PREHISTORY” (BEFORE 3500 CE) A basic type of periodization is to divide all of time into "prehistory" and "history." Usually the distinction is based on whether or not the people left written records, but the presence of written records is very closely tied to the beginnings of agriculture. Scholars are not entirely sure about when human beings first appeared on earth, but new discoveries continue to push the date further back in time. So "prehistory" lasted for millions of years.
The first humans probably emerged in eastern Africa, due to a happy confluence of availability of food and domesticable animals and favorable climate. For thousands of years humans sustained themselves as hunters and gatherers, and as a result were quite dependent on the abundance of food. Hunters gained skills in capturing and killing animals, and gatherers learned which plants and fruits were edible and nutritious. Technological inventions generally supported the fulfillment of these basic activities. Stones (and eventually metals) were shaped as tools and weapons, and techniques were developed for efficient gathering and storage of food.
By 8000 BCE, humans had migrated to many other areas, probably following the herds and other available food sources. Major migrations include:
Our knowledge of prehistoric people is limited, partly because they lived so long ago, and partly because they left no written records. However, archaeologists have found evidence of these generally shared characteristics of prehistoric people:
Social structure — Most people traveled in small bands, and authority was based on family relationships. Men took leadership roles, but women were highly valued for their gathering skills. Labor was generally divided based on gender, with men as hunters and women as gatherers. However, status differences between men and women were generally not wide, with relative gender equality apparently characterizing their group life.
2) Beliefs — Archaeological evidence suggests that prehistoric people were guided by their beliefs in spirits and sacred places. Their cave drawings and traces of their cultural objects indicate that they believed in an afterlife, although they probably did not specifically practice polytheism, or a belief in many gods. Instead, animism, or the belief in many spirits (not specific gods), probably describes their religion more accurately. Bushes, rocks, trees, plants, or streams could be inhabited by these spirits, who often appeared to communicate with humans.
The prehistoric era includes the early stages of agriculture from about 10,000 to 4,000 BCE, but once settlement began, the stage was set for the development of reading and writing and the period known as "history."
ENVIRONMENTAL AND PERIODIZATION ISSUES When, how, and why did people give up their wandering and settle to live in one place? First of all, it happened in different parts of the world at different times, but settled communities had developed in many places by 8000 BCE. The ability to settle was based almost entirely on successful cultivation of crops and domestication of animals. These drastic changes in human life are known collectively as the Neolithic Revolution that almost certainly happened independently in different places over a large span of time. For example, the people settling along the major rivers in China did not learn to farm because they were in contact with the people in the Indus River area. Instead, people in both areas probably figured out the advantages of settled life on their own. Although the Neolithic Revolution was one of the most significant marker events in world history, it occurred gradually and probably by trial and error.
The changes that resulted include:
Increase in reliable food supplies — Agricultural skills allowed people to control food production, and domestication of animals both helped to make agricultural production more efficient and increased the availability of food.
Rapid increase in total human population — Reliable food supplies meant that people were less likely to starve to death. With increasing life spans came increasing reproduction, and more children meant that there were more people to tend the land and animals.
Job specialization — Other occupations than farming developed, since fewer people were needed to produce food. Some early specialized jobs include priests, traders, and builders.
Widening of gender differences — Status distinctions between men and women increased, as men took over most agricultural cultivation and domestication of animals. Women were responsible for raising children, cooking food, and keeping the house, but in virtually all of the early civilizations men became more and more dominant. A patriarchal system commonly developed, with men holding power in the family, the economy, and the government.
Development of distinction between settled people and "nomads" — All people did not settle into communities but remained as hunters and gatherers. As more settled communities developed, the distinction between agriculturalists and hunters and gatherers grew.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GEOGRAPHY American students are often criticized for their lack of knowledge of geography, but it is essential in the study of world history. Although you will not have to specifically identify places on the AP Exam, you cannot follow change over time nor make accurate comparisons unless you know something about both physical and political geography.
Our concepts of geography have been shaped by western historians of the past, and in recent years some scholars have questioned very basic assumptions about the ways that the globe is divided. For example, take the concept of a continent. Why is Europe considered a continent? What actually separates Europe from Asia? Certainly, physical geographical separation of the two continents is far from clear. Historians Martin Lewis and Karen Wigen refer to cartographic ethnocentrism in their controversial book, The Myth of Continents. This ethnic point of view is centered around Europe, and a little later, around the United States. For example, where did the name "Middle East" come from? From the European perspective, this area is east of Europe, but it is not as far away as China is. If we look at the Middle East from a cultural point of view, we certainly can see commonalities that extend throughout northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Europe, and Asia. So why do we divide the area up into several continents?
Biased divisions that Lewis and Wigen identify include:
East vs. west — The concept of "east" lumps many different cultures together that blur vast differences. Some of this occurs in considering the west, but cultural distinctions are generally more readily acknowledged.
South vs. north — The history of the southern part of the globe has often been ignored in the telling of world history, and the northern half has been highlighted.
Even maps that we use reflect these biases. Most map projections center around the Atlantic Ocean, clearly showing Europe and North America in the middle. Inventors of the relatively new Peders' projection claim that older, more familiar projections (like Mercator and Robertson's) actually short change "less important" countries in terms of land space. Of course, we cannot talk about world history without labels, biased though they may be. However, it is essential to use objective criteria in determining what events, places, and people have shaped the course of history. Do not automatically assume that one part of the world is inherently more important than another at any particular time without thinking it through carefully and objectively.
THE NATURE OF CIVILIZATION These changes in turn allowed the development of "civilization," a basic organizing principle in world history. Civilization may be defined in many ways, but it is generally characterized by:
Large cities that dominate the countryside around them — Growing populations required more food production, so the cities controlled their hinterlands in order to guarantee a reliable and continuous supply of food for their inhabitants.
Monumental architecture and public building projects that take many forms —They may include temples, palaces, irrigation projects, city walls, public arenas, government buildings, and aqueducts.
A complex political organization — In order to coordinate activities and provide protection for the cities and hinterlands, governments developed. The larger the area and population, the more demanding political positions became, and control of the government began to move away from kinship ties. Although many early rulers passed their authority down to their sons, other factors became important, such as military prowess and ability.
A written language — This important development in human history allowed societies to organize and maintain the growing political, social, and economic structure that followed settlement into agricultural areas. Those societies that developed a written language were able to communicate multiple ideas and large amounts of information that in turn encouraged greater complexity and growth.
Specialization of labor – With basic food needs taken care of by fewer people, others may specialize in jobs that help to improve the quality of life. For example, engineers may construct bigger and better irrigation systems, and bureaucrats may increase their level of government services.
Advanced art and literature – In prehistoric times and in simple communities, most artwork and literature was (is) produced by people who were preoccupied with activities that sustained their lives, such as hunting and gathering or farming. Art consisted of simple drawings, and literature usually took the form of oral stories passed down from one generation to the next. With the advent of civilization, some people had the time to concentrate on art and literature, making them their primary occupation.
Long distance trade – As technologies improved and specialization increased, trade with other civilization centers began. This trade led to cultural diffusion, or the spreading and sharing of cultural characteristics. Not only was material culture –objects such as pottery, tools, and textiles – shared, but nonmaterial culture – such as beliefs, customs, and values – also spread, contributing to the cosmopolitan nature of cities.
THE CIVILIZATION CONTROVERSY The term "civilization" is derived from Latin, the language of the ancient Roman Empire. The Latin word civilis means "of the citizens," and the Romans used it to distinguish between themselves from the "inferior" people who lived on the fringes of their empire. However, the distinctions that the word implies began long before the time of the Romans. The process of civilization, or the development of the characteristics listed above, indisputably occurred in several parts of the world before 1500 BCE, and the feelings of superiority that urban folks displayed probably began just as early.
Civilization as an organizing principle in world history is actually quite controversial. Traditionally historians have seen the development of civilization in a positive light, or as improvements in the quality of human life. So they refer to some societies as more "advanced" than others that remain more "backward." However, other scholars have cautioned against ignoring the "dark side" of the distinctions that the word "civilization" implies.
The Civilization Controversy: a Building Block for Human Society?
Advantages of Civilization
Disadvantages of Civilizations
Development of specialized skills, inventions, arts, and literature
Increase in class and gender distinctions, creating oppression for some
Building of economically and politically coordinated cities
Overproduction of land, depletion of soil, eventual destruction caused by increase in population
Increased ability to protect people from dangers both inside and outside the city
Increased attacks from outsiders attracted to wealth; internal crime promoted by crowded conditions
Growth of prosperity, improving quality of life
Creation of life-threatening congestion, pollution, disease, and decrease in sanitation
Today most historians try to steer away from the question of whether the advent of civilization led to a higher level of human life or started us on the road to ultimate destruction. The important thing to remember is that it dramatically changed the course of world history, whether for good or for bad. No matter what the location or time period, the division between urban and rural lifestyles is a recurring theme throughout time, and biases toward one lifestyle or the other remain as a great continuity throughout eras and among many societies around the world.
EARLY AGRICULTURAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS Sedentary agricultural communities were usually the forerunners to the development of the earliest river valley civilizations. However, the shift away from hunting and gathering societies took many other forms.
ALTERNATIVES TO SEDENTARY AGRICULTURE 1) shifting cultivation – Often referred to as "slash and bum" agriculture, this farming method developed primarily in rain forest zones of Central and South America, West Africa, eastern and central Asia, and much of southern China and Southeast Asia. The obvious destruction to the environment was worsened by the frequency of the farmers' movement. At first, the soil in the burnt areas was very fertile, but when soil nutrients were depleted, farmers moved on to slash and burn another piece of jungle.
2) pastoral nomadism – This alternative to sedentary agriculture is characterized by following the herds, just as the earlier hunters and gatherers did. However, the herds were domesticated, and consisted of sheep, goats, cows, reindeer, camels, and/or horses. Nomadism, or the practice of moving frequently from one place to the other, was dictated by the need for pasture for the animals. This life style developed across the grassy plains of central Eurasia and nearby desert areas of the Arabian peninsula and the Sudan. Pastoral nomads may be categorized by the animals that they tended:
Horse nomads – The first nomads did not ride them, but devised chariots for horses to pull. Some of these nomads formed empires (Hyksos, Hittites).
Reindeer herders – These nomads populated Scandinavia and were generally far away from civilization centers.
Camel herders – The main animal herded in the Sudan and the Arabian peninsula was the camel.
Cattle nomads – Cattle were herded in the upper reaches of the Nile River and the southern Sudan, grass areas far away from civilization centers.
The life style of nomads by necessity means that they do not settle into villages, and therefore do not form the basis for the later development of cities. Settled agriculturalists generally saw them as "barbarians," an inferior lot that needed to be kept out of their villages. However, despite this designation, nomadic groups, especially when they have embarked on major migrations, have had a significant impact on the course of world history. Do not make the mistake of discounting them, because nomads have often sparked major changes that have greatly affected and sometimes dominated settled communities.
EARLY AGRICULTURE By about 5000 BCE agriculture had become well established in several areas. In Southwest Asia, wheat and barley were raised, and sheep and goats were domesticated. In Southeast Asia, yams, peas, and early forms of rice were grown, and pigs, oxen, and chickens were kept. In the Americas, corn (maize), squash, and beans were staples of the diet, and in South America, potatoes were also grown. Domesticated animals were far less important in the Americas than they were elsewhere, but South Americans did domesticate llamas and alpacas.
As agriculture began to take hold in various parts of the world, the population grew rapidly. For example, world population in 3000 BCE was probably about 14 million humans, but by 500 BCE, the total had risen to about 100 million.
TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENTS The time period that followed the advent of agriculture and preceded the earliest civilizations is characterized by the refinement of tools, primarily for agricultural purposes.
Early labor specialization is based on three craft industries:
Pottery – Once agriculture began, pots were needed for cooking and storage, so pottery making was probably the first craft industry to develop. Early on, people discovered that designs could be etched into the clay before it hardened, so pottery became a medium for artistic expression.
Metallurgy – The first metal used was copper that could be hammered into shapes for tools and jewelry. No heat was required, but someone discovered that heating separated the metal from its ores and improved the malleability and overall quality of the product. Early tools such as knives, axes, hoes, and weapons were made of copper.
Textile production – Textiles decay much more readily than pottery, metal tools, and jewelry do, but the earliest textiles can be documented to about 6000 BCE. Through experimentation with plant and animal fibers, they developed methods of spinning thread and weaving fabrics, jobs done primarily by women at home while tending to children and other domestic duties.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE EARLIEST CIVILIZATIONS (3500 BCE-1200 BCE) Somewhere around 4000 BCE, a series of technological inventions forged the way for a new phase of development within some of the agricultural societies. Three important changes were:
The introduction of the plow – Plows meant that more land could be cultivated more efficiently. Greater productivity led to the growth of towns into cities.
The invention and use of bronze – Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin that led to vast improvements in equipment and tools.
The advent of writing – Apparently, the first people to use writing were the Sumerians in the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Not coincidentally, this area was the site of perhaps the oldest civilizations in history, beginning about 3500 BCE.
The Sumerians were the first of a series of people to inhabit Mesopotamia, and they developed all of the major characteristics of "civilization": cities, public buildings, job specialization, complex political organization, writing, arts and literature, long-distance trade. Other early civilizations were Egypt, the Indus Valley people, and Shang China.
COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF THE RIVER-VALLEY CIVILIZATIONS Each early civilization developed its own unique ways of life, but they all shared some common characteristics:
Location in river valleys – Rivers provided water for crops, as well as the easiest form of transportation. All four river valleys of the earliest civilizations had very fertile soil called loess, or alluvial soil carried and deposited as river water traveled downstream.
Complex irrigation systems – Controlling the flow of the rivers was a major issue for all of the civilizations, and all of them channeled the water for agricultural use through irrigation systems.
Development of legal codes – The most famous set of laws was Hammurabi's Code, but all wrote and implemented laws as political organization and long-distance trade grew more complex.
Use of money – Long distance trade made the barter system (trading one type of good for another) impractical, so all the civilizations developed some form of money for economic exchanges.
Elaborate art forms and/or written literature – These took different forms, but all civilizations showed advancements in these areas. For example, Egyptians built pyramids and concentrated on decorate arts, and Mesopotamians wrote complex stories like the Epic of Gilgamesh.
More formal scientific knowledge, numbering systems, and calendars –Developments in these areas varied from civilization to civilization, but all formalized knowledge in at least some of these areas.
Intensification of social inequality – In all river valley civilizations, gender inequality
Gender and all practiced some form of slavery. Slaves were often captives in war or hereditary, and they were used for household work, public building projects, and agricultural production.
In addition to the river valley civilizations, early civilizations appeared in Mesoamerica and South America, and though they shared many characteristics above, they did not develop along river valleys. The Olmecs appeared by about 1200 BCE in what is now Mexico. Their trade and culture influenced other parts of Central America and shaped the development of later civilizations in the area. Between 1800 and 1200 BCE, an elaborate culture developed in the Andes area of South America. The Chavin people in particular spread widely throughout the area from their center in present-day Peru.
All of the civilizations varied greatly, as the chart on the next page reflects. For the exam, you only need to be able to accurately compare two of the civilizations.
COMPARISONS OF EARLY RIVER VALLEY CIVILIZATIONS
(developed by 3500
-Cuneiform writing with wedge shaped characters; 2000 symbols reduced to 300
-Extensive trade with Egypt and the Indus Valley
-Epic of Gilgamesh
-Early use of bronze tools, chariots
-Advanced astronomy; math based on 60
-Pessimistic view of world, perhaps due to irregular, unpredictable flooding of the rivers
-Polytheism – gods powerful and often cruel Kings powerful, but not divine
-City-states and warrior kings in almost constant conflict with one another
-Large empires in later times
-Hammurabi's Code and lex
talionis (law of retaliation)
-Competition among city states as well as frequent invasions led to less political stability than in Egypt
-Job specialization: farmers, metallurgist, merchants, craftsmen, political administrators, priests
1) free land-owning class
2) dependent farmers and
3) slaves for domestic service (could purchase freedom)
-Merchant class important
-Marriage contracts, veils for women; women of upper classes less equal than lower class counterparts
(developed by 3000
-No epic literature
-Concerned with decorative arts, shipbuilding, some medical knowledge
-Less advanced in math and astronomy than Mesopotamians
-Less extensive trade, especially in earlier eras
-Polytheism, with pharaoh as a god
-Optimistic view of life (regular, controllable flooding of the river)
-Strong belief in the afterlife; Book of the Dead
-Hieroglyphics – complex, pictorial language
-Divine kingship – the pharaoh; highly centralized, authoritarian government
-Generally stable government throughout the 3 kingdoms
-Extensive bureaucracy; pharaoh's power channeled through regional governors
-Smaller nobility than Mesopotamia; fewer merchants
-Some social mobility through the bureaucracy
-Priests have high status (only ones who understand the complex hieroglyphic written language)
-Women – probably higher status than in Mesopotamia; love poetry indicates some importance placed on male/female relationships
-Unique geography: lived on coast, in mountains, and in jungle
Olmecs: apparently not united politically; unusual for ancient civilizations
Chavin: probably political unification; public works operated by reciprocal labor obligations; had a capital city
Olmec: craft specializations; priests have highest status; most people were farmers
Chavin: Priests have highest status; capital city dominated the hinterlands; most people were farmers
CHANGE OVER TIME – EGYPT AND WESTERN ASIA The river valleys where civilizations first developed have been home to many people continuously over time right up to present day. In ancient times all of the areas changed significantly from their early beginnings through golden days to their eventual demise. The chart on the next page reflects change over time in two of the areas – Egypt and Western Asia, concentrating on the era from 1500 to 500 BCE.
CHANGE OVER TIME — EGYPT & WESTERN ASIA
CHANGES BY 1500-500 BCE
Outside invaders took over; political fragmentation challenged power of the pharaoh; foreign rule for the first time –
Hyksos; reunified into New Kingdom, when Hyksos expelled; in contrast to Old Kingdom, aggressive and expansionist; building of army/ fortifications; female pharaoh – Hatshepsut; Ramesses II – expansionist, dominated age for 66 year reign
Outside invaders took over, control city states; two distinct political zones: Babylonia in south, Assyria in north; Assyria was expansionist; Hittites; larger states interacted – a geopolitical sphere
Increased amount of trade, contact; control of Syria/Palestine and Nubia – brought new resources – timber, gold, copper; myrrh and resin from punt
Increased amount of trade, contact; Assyrians brought in tin and textiles in exchange for silver; Hittites took over copper, silver, and iron deposits
including languages &
Hyksos intermarried with
Egyptians, assimilation of
Egyptian ways; Amarna letters – reflect contacts among cultures; "superiority" of Egyptian culture
More diverse languages
Hittites, Kassites (non-Semitic); diffusion of Mesopotamian political and cultural concepts, including Akkadian as language of international diplomacy; cuneiform writing spread; mythology, arts and architecture spread
Akhenaten – perhaps monotheism, devotion to sun god Alen
Spread of Sumerian mythology to entire area
No more pyramids, but colossal statues and temples, and underground tombs
Clashes between Egypt and the
Clashes between Egypt and the
Horses by 1500 BCE; horse drawn chariots; enabled larger kingdoms
THE DECLINE OF THE EARLIEST CIVILIZATIONS Throughout history, no matter what the era, virtually all civilizations that have come to power eventually decline and die. Historians have always been intrigued with the question of why decline appears to be inevitable. The experience of the earliest civilizations provides some answers to the question of why empires fall. If you study the chart carefully, you will notice that by the era from 1500 to 500 BCE, both Egypt and Western Asia were showing signs of conflict and weakness. Ironically, the problems began at a time when both areas were prosperous from trade. Their cities were cosmopolitan, arts and literature flourished, and the civilizations were in frequent contact with one another. An important change occurs around 1200 BCE for all of the civilizations except for China. Without exception the others experienced a major decline or destruction during this marker era inworld history. So what happened?