Welcome to the world of ancient history! Studying history involves investigating what happened in the past and why. Ancient history concerns the distant past, from the earliest humans through the first great civilizations.
How can we learn about events that happened so long ago? People who study history are a lot like detectives conducting an investigation. They ask questions, study the evidence for clues, and form hypotheses (educated guesses).
Our investigation of the ancient past starts near the very beginning of human history. What was life like long, long ago?
One of the most amazing clues about what life was like long ago was discovered by four teenagers at Lascaux, France. On September 12, 1940, the four boys found a cave. All over the walls and ceiling of the cave were paintings of animals. The paintings seemed to be very old. Who had created them? What did they mean?
How would you solve a mystery like this one? The clues are centuries old, and the witnesses are gone. An expert detective might help, but whom should you ask?
In this chapter, you’ll meet three kinds of experts who study the past: archeologists, historians, and geographers. Then you’ll look at some fascinating examples of cave art to see what this evidence can teach us about life long ago. 1.10 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you’ve learned how archeologists, historians, and geographers are like detectives who solve the mysteries of the past: they ask questions, study the evidence for clues, and form hypotheses. You’ve also studied examples of prehistoric cave art to find clues about how people lived long ago.
No one knows for sure why these colorful images and sculptures were created. Some might simply have been decorations. Others might be records of important events. Or they may have been used in rituals or to influence or honor the spirit world.
Scientists are always learning more about the distant past. Are you ready to join them by studying clues and weighing the evidence? In the next chapter, you’ll explore the first hominids and how they lived. 2.1 Introduction
In Chapter 1, you explored cave paintings made by prehistoric humans. Scientists call these prehistoric humans hominids. In this chapter, you will learn about five important groups of hominids.
You’ve already met three kinds of “history detectives”—archeologists, historians, and geographers. The study of hominids involves a fourth type, paleoanthropologists. Anthropologists study human development and culture. Paleoanthropologists specialize in studying the earliest hominids. (Paleo means “ancient.”)
In 1974, an American paleoanthropologist, Donald Johanson, made an exciting discovery. He was searching for artifacts under a hot African sun when he found a partial skeleton. The bones included a piece of skull, a jawbone, a rib, and leg bones.
After careful study, Johanson decided the bones came from a female hominid who lived more than 3 million years ago. He nicknamed her “Lucy” while he was listening to the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” by the Beatles. She is one of the earliest hominids ever discovered.
What have scientists found out about Lucy and other hominids? How were these hominids like us? How were they different? What capabilities, or skills, did each group have? Let’s find out. 2.12 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you learned about five hominid groups and their different capabilities. Each change along the way—from walking upright to creating better tools—was a key step in the development of early modern humans.
The next chapter looks at another dramatic change. Early hominids gathered or hunted their food. Next you’ll discover how life changed when people learned to grow their own food. 3.1 Introduction
In the last chapter, you learned about five important groups of hominids. Like the hominids before them, early modern humans hunted and gathered their food. In this chapter, you’ll read about how people learned, over thousands of years, to farm their own food.
Humans discovered farming toward the end of the Stone Age. The Stone Age gets its name from the tools people made of stone. It began with the first toolmaking hominids about 2 million years ago. It lasted until around 3000 B.C.E., when people learned to make tools and weapons out of metal.
Historians divide the Stone Age into periods. The first is the Paleolithic Age, or Old Stone Age. During this time, people got their food by hunting wild animals and gathering nuts, berries, and other plants. They lived much of their lives out in the open and rarely stayed in one place for long.
By about 8000 B.C.E., some groups of people had learned how to raise animals and crops for food. With this discovery, the Neolithic Age, or New Stone Age, began. For the first time, people settled down to live in one place.
The shift from being hunter-gatherers to being farmers is one of the most important advances people have ever made. In this chapter, you’ll explore the many ways it changed human life. 3.8 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you learned how the development of farming changed people’s lives. For the first time, people had a stable supply of food. As a result, they could build permanent shelters and communities. They created new jobs and traded for the resources they needed. In the next chapter, you’ll explore another dramatic change: the building of large cities. 4.1 Introduction
In Chapter 3, you learned how people began farming and living in small villages during Neolithic times. In this chapter, you’ll discover how some small villages grew into large, complex cities.
These villages were located in a land of rolling hills and low plains called Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). Mesopotamia is a Greek word that means “the land between the rivers.” The two rivers are the Tigris River and the Euphrates River. Cities first appeared in the southern part of this land, an area called Sumer.
The earliest cities in Sumer date back to about 3500 B.C.E. These first cities were like small, independent countries. They each had their own ruler and their own farmland to provide food. For this reason, they are called city-states.
Imagine that you are visiting one of these early cities. You see a walled settlement surrounded by farmland that supplies food for the city. The strong city walls are built of sunbaked bricks. Moats, or ditches filled with water, surround the walls. The moats help to keep out enemies. During an attack, people living outside the city walls fled inside for protection.
As you gaze on the city, you may wonder how it came to be built. Why didn’t people in Mesopotamia go on living in small villages, as their ancestors had done for thousands of years? Why did large city-states grow up here, in the “Land Between the Rivers”? In this chapter, you’ll find out. 4.8 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you’ve learned how villages in Mesopotamia grew into large cities. The people of Mesopotamia had to solve a series of problems in order to live successfully in their challenging environment. Their solutions to these problems gradually led them to build the large communities we call city-states.
Living in cities led to a new way of life. In the next chapter, you’ll take a closer look at the culture that developed in the Sumerian city-states. 5.1 Introduction
In the last chapter, you read about the rise of Sumerian city-states. In this chapter, you’ll take a closer look at Sumerian culture. Like an archeologist, you’ll consider evidence to try to answer a question about the distant past. The question is this: Was Sumer a civilization?
Until about 150 years ago, archeologists had no idea that the Sumerian people had lived at all. Then, in the mid 1800s, archeologists began finding artifacts in the area we call Mesopotamia. They dug up tablets, pottery, and the ruins of cities. They were surprised to find writing in a language they had never seen before.
By studying artifacts, archeologists have learned a lot about Sumer. One artifact is called the Standard of Ur. It was found where the ancient city of Ur once stood. You can see the standard on the opposite page. It is made of wood and decorated with pieces of shell and lapis lazuli, a semiprecious blue stone. It shows Sumerians in times of peace and war. Artifacts like this one can tell us a great deal about daily life in ancient Sumer.
We now know that the Sumerians had a complex society. Some of the things they invented, like the plow and writing, are still in use today. But can we call Sumer a civilization? Let’s consider the evidence. 5.10 Chapter Summary
Was Sumerian culture a civilization? It had all the characteristics you read about at the start of this chapter. The people of Sumer created a stable food supply. Their society had a complex social structure. They had a system of government, headed by kings. They had a religious system with priests, temples, and ziggurats. They had highly developed arts, technologies, and written language. For these reasons, historians call Sumer one of the world’s first civilizations.
Sumerian civilization lasted about 1,500 years, from 3500 to 2000 B.C.E. What happened to the Sumerians? What new cultures developed in Mesopotamia? In the next chapter, you’ll find out. 6.1 Introduction
In Chapter 5, you read about the ancient civilization of Sumer. In this chapter, you will discover what happened to the Sumerians and who ruled Mesopotamia after them.
As you have learned, the city-states of Sumer were like independent countries. They often fought over land and water rights. They never united into one group. Their lack of unity left them open to attacks by stronger groups.
About 2300 B.C.E., a group called the Akkadians conquered Sumer. They made the Sumerian city-states a part of an empire. An empire is a large territory where several groups of people are ruled by a single powerful leader or government. Empire builders like the Akkadians first conquer other lands. Then they use their power to keep these lands under their control.
In this chapter, you will learn about four empires that rose up in Mesopotamia between 2300 and 539 B.C.E. They were the Akkadian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, the Assyrian Empire, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire. 6.10 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you read about four empires that once ruled Mesopotamia. Each of these empires had its own achievements. And each had its own problems that eventually led to its fall.
Outside Mesopotamia, other cultures developed during this time. In the next unit, you’ll explore the cultures of the ancient Egyptians, the people of Kush, and the Hebrews. 7.1 Introduction
In Unit 1, you learned about early hominids and the empires of Mesopotamia. In this unit, you will explore three civilizations that arose in Africa and southwestern Asia. They were the Egyptian, Kush, and Hebrew civilizations.
The Egyptians settled along the Nile River, in the northeast corner of Africa. Their civilization lasted from around 3100 B.C.E. to 350 C.E.
The Kushites settled to the south of Egypt, along the southern part of the Nile. Their civilization began around 2000 B.C.E. and lasted until 350 C.E.
The Hebrews settled northeast of Egypt, in Canaan, in about 1800 B.C.E. Over time, they developed a unique civilization that thrived until their capital city was destroyed in 70 C.E.
Why did these people settle where they did? Their choices were greatly affected by environmental factors. Three important environmental factors were water, topography (the shape of the land), and vegetation (plant life). These factors depended upon physical features that were part of each area’s geography. Physical features include such things as rivers, mountains, valleys, deserts, climate, and the fertility of the soil.
In this chapter, you will learn why water, topography, and vegetation were so important to early human settlement. Then you’ll explore the geography of ancient Egypt, Kush, and Canaan. You’ll find out how environmental factors in these places affected where people chose to live. 7.5 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you learned about three environmental factors that influenced the settlement of ancient Egypt, Kush, and Canaan. In Egypt and Kush, most people farmed in the fertile Nile River valley. In Canaan, many people, including the ancient Hebrews, were nomads. They followed their herds in search of good grazing land. In the next chapter, you will learn more about ancient Egypt and meet some of its rulers. 8.1 Introduction
In the last chapter, you learned how early Egyptians settled in the Nile River valley. In this chapter, you will visit ancient Egypt and meet four of its leaders, called pharaohs.
In 1922, archeologists discovered the tomb of a pharaoh known as King Tutankhaten, or King Tut. Inside a small burial chamber, they found three coffins nested inside each other. The smallest coffin was made of solid gold. It held the king’s mummy. (A mummy is a body that has been preserved after death to keep it from decaying.) On the mummy’s head was a magnificent golden mask. Jewelry and good luck charms lay on the mummy and in the wrappings that protected it. Other rooms of the tomb were filled with statues, weapons, furniture, and even a chariot.
The treasures in King Tut’s tomb provided an amazing glimpse into ancient Egypt. Other pharaohs also left behind fabulous riches and artwork. Many of them built great monuments to celebrate their accomplishments. Like King Tut’s tomb, these artifacts have much to teach us about this ancient civilization.
In this chapter, you will learn about three important periods in ancient Egyptian history. They are called the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom. Then you will meet four of the pharaohs who ruled during these periods. You will learn about their achievements and explore some of the monuments they left behind. 8.7 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you learned about three long periods of stability in ancient Egypt: the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom. You explored the accomplishments of four pharaohs who ruled during these times. Khufu built the Great Pyramid. Senusret encouraged Egyptian art and literature. Hatshepsut, Egypt’s first female pharaoh, promoted Egyptian trade. And Ramses the Great was a superior military leader and builder of monuments.
Pharaohs were at the top of Egyptian society. In the next chapter, you’ll learn about the rest of Egypt’s people and what daily life was like in the New Kingdom. 9.1 Introduction
In Chapter 8, you learned about four Egyptian pharaohs. In this chapter, you will meet other members of Egyptian society. You’ll learn what life was like for Egyptians during the New Kingdom (about 1600 to 1100 B.C.E.).
Each year, when the Nile River flooded its banks, all of Egypt celebrated the Opet Festival. Work in the fields stopped while the people joined in a festival honoring the pharaoh and his patron, the god Amon-Re.
Almost everyone in Egyptian society took part in the festival. Priests decorated a statue of the god with jewelry. They put the statue in a shrine and placed the shrine on a ceremonial boat called a barque. The beautifully decorated boat was made by artisans, or craftspeople. High government officials competed for the honor of carrying the barque on poles through town. Peasant farmers lined the streets to watch the procession. Scribes made a written record of the celebration.
The Opet Festival brought all these groups together. But in everyday life, they belonged to very different social classes. These classes made up a social pyramid, with the pharaoh at the top and peasants at the bottom. In between were government officials, priests, scribes, and artisans. The daily life of each class was quite different.
In this chapter, you will learn more about Egypt’s social pyramid. Then you’ll explore the work and daily life of the various classes in Egyptian society. 9.8 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you learned about Egypt’s social pyramid. Each social class had its own role to play in society. You learned about the work and daily lives of government officials, priests, scribes, artisans, and peasants. In the next chapter, you will travel south along the Nile and explore the civilization of Kush. 10.1 Introduction
In the last chapter, you learned about daily life in Egypt during the New Kingdom. In this chapter, you will learn about Egypt’s neighbor to the south, the African kingdom of Kush.
The civilization of Kush thrived from about 2000 B.C.E. to 350 C.E. Kush and Egypt had a close relationship throughout much of Kush’s long history. Signs of their close ties can be found in pictures on the walls of some Egyptian tombs and temples.
A good example is the tomb of Hatshepsut, Egypt’s first female pharaoh. If you entered the tomb, you would see many painted scenes of Egyptian life. But step a little closer, and you might notice that not all the people in the paintings are Egyptian. Some look a little different. They have darker skin and curly hair. These people are Kushites. In some scenes, the Kushites appear to be bearing gifts. In others, they look as if they are armed with bows and arrows. As these images suggest, Egypt and Kush had a complicated relationship. Sometimes it was peaceful. Often it was not.
In this chapter, you will learn more about the relationship between Egypt and Kush. You will discover how each culture influenced the other. You will also learn how Kush created its own unique civilization. 10.6 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you learned about the African kingdom of Kush. Egypt and Kush had close ties for centuries. Each country invaded and conquered the other. Kushite pharaohs ruled Egypt for nearly a century. After the Kushites left Egypt, Kush created its own, more African, culture. In the next chapter, you will learn about Egypt’s northeastern neighbors, the ancient Hebrews. 11.1 Introduction
In Chapter 10, you learned about Egypt’s southern neighbor, the African kingdom of Kush. In this chapter, you will learn about a group of people who lived northeast of Egypt: the Hebrews.
The Hebrew civilization developed gradually after 1800 B.C.E. and flourished until 70 C.E. The people who became the Hebrews originally lived in Mesopotamia. Around 1950 B.C.E., they moved to the land of Canaan (modern-day Israel).
The Hebrews were the founders of Judaism, one of the world’s major religions. As you will learn in the next chapter, the Hebrews eventually became known as the Jews. Judaism is the Jewish religion.
The origins of Judaism and its basic laws are recorded in its most sacred text, the Torah. The word Torah means “God’s teaching.” The Torah consists of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. (Christians refer to the Hebrew Bible as the Old Testament.)
In this chapter, you will read about some of the early history of the Jewish people told in the Bible. You will meet four Hebrew leaders —Abraham, Moses, and kings David and Solomon—and learn about their contributions to the development of Judaism. 11.7 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you read about the ancient Hebrews and the origins of Judaism. Through the stories of Abraham, Moses, David, and Solomon, you learned how Judaism developed. In the next chapter, you will learn how the Hebrews became known as Jews and how they kept their ancient religion alive outside of Judah and Israel. 12.1 Introduction
In the last chapter, you read about the origins of Judaism. In this chapter, you will discover how Judaism was preserved even after the Hebrews lost their homeland.
As you have learned, the Hebrew kingdom split in two after the death of King Solomon. Weakened by this division, the Hebrews were less able to fight off invaders.
The northern kingdom of Israel was the first to fall. In 722 B.C.E., the Assyrians conquered Israel. The kingdom’s leaders were carried off to Mesopotamia.
In 597 B.C.E., the kingdom of Judah was invaded by another Mesopotamian power, Babylon. King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon laid siege to the city of Jerusalem. The Hebrews fought off the siege until their food ran out. With the people starving, the Babylonians broke through the walls and captured the city. In 586 B.C.E., Nebuchadrezzar burned down Solomon’s great Temple of Jerusalem and all the houses in the city. Most of the people of Judah were taken as captives to Babylon.