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The First Civilizations and Empires
Before History
A.Historians usually read and study written
documents to get an idea of what went on
in the past.

B. But, for that period of time before written
records (called prehistory) scientists study
artifacts and fossils to make theories
about early human beings.
Development of
Hominids

Animals adapt themselves to
environment
Hominids adapt environment to
themselves
Use of tools
Language
Complex cooperative social
structures
Australopithecus

“The southern ape – Despite name is a hominid
Discovery of skeleton AL-288-1, north of Addis
Ababa, Ethiopia
 Nicknamed “Lucy”
3’5, 55lb., bipedal, Brain 500 cc (modern human:
1400 cc), limited speech but opposable digit
Estimated date of death: 3.5 million years ago

Later Hominids

Homo Erectus, “upright man”1.5 Million years
ago.
Larger brain capacity (1000 cc), improved
tool use, control of fire
Homo Sapiens,“consciously thinking human”
Largest brain, esp. frontal regions
Most sophisticated tools and social
organization
Homo Sapiens “wise human beings”
- two groups (250,000 years ago)
(a)

Neanderthals – first people to bury
their dead.
- first fossil remains were found in
the Neander Valley (Germany)
(b) Homo Sapiens Sapiens – people
who look like us.
- developed in Africa and began to
spread out about 100,000 years
ago.
Hunters – Gatherers
Paleolithic Age (2,500,000 – 10,000 B.C.)
Known as “old stone age”
- humans used simple tools, discovered
fire.
- Paleolithic people were primarily
nomads who hunted animals and
gathered plants.
Nomads – people who moved from place to
place in search for food. (cave paintings)

IV.The Neolithic Revolution
(8000-4000 B.C)

A. Neolithic (New Stone Age) was a period of
time when humans began to shift from
hunters/gatherers to systematic agriculture.
- Systematic Agriculture means growing food
on a regular basis.
- Humans also began domestication
(raising animals for food and clothing.)
B. People began to settle around rivers
growing and raising their own food.

By 3000 B.C., large numbers of people
were concentrated in the river valleys of
Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China.
V. Civilization
- Culture is the way of life people follow

A civilization is a complex culture in which
large numbers of human beings share a
number of common elements.
Characteristics of Civilizations
1. Cities
4. Social Structure
2. Government
5. Writing
3. Religion
6. Art
I. Mesopotamia
A. Mesopotamia “cradle of civilization”
where civilization began.

Mesopotamia was located between the
Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This area
is known as Iraq, today.
Jericho is often considered to be the
world’s 1st city.
The Ancient Middle East:Mesopotamia

Sumerians created the first known
civilization in the ancient Middle East.
B. The people who established
Mesopotamia were called the
Sumerians.

The Sumerians devoted much of their
wealth to building temples, called
Ziggurats, to honor the gods.
The Sumerians set-up a government
called a city-state. City-states are ruled
Ziggurats
Temples served civic and
religious purposes
 Daily sacrifices and rituals
 Storage of surplus grain and
other foods
 Dwelling of priests and
priestesses
 Locale where craftsmen and
artisans could practice their
trades
II. Creativity of the Sumerians
A. The Sumerians invented the oldest
writing system called cuneiform.

Scribes (record-keepers) carved
symbols onto wet clay tablets which
were later dried.
B.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is the world’s
oldest story, written about the life of a
Sumerian king.
CUNEIFORM
Sumerian writing developed around 3100
BC
Symbols were engraved on clay tablets
Scribes kept business records and poems on
tablets
Written
Language
Cuneiform
– the use
of wedge-like shapes.
III. Empires in Ancient Mesopotamia
A.

The Akkadians conquered the Sumerians
in 2330 B.C. and established the first
empire.
An empire is a large political unit, under
a single leader, that controls many
people and territories.
B. In 1792 B.C., the Babylonians under the
leadership of Hammurabi overthrew
the Akkadians.

C. Hammurabi was the king of Babylon.
He controlled the Babylonian empire by
publishing a set of laws known as the
Code of Hammurabi, history’s first
known written laws.
Babylon was patriarchal, meaning a
society dominated by men.
IV. Egypt
A. Egypt is a country in northern Africa
on the Mediterranean Sea.

Geographic features – Sahara desert and
the Nile river.
Egyptians created the 365 day
calendar.
B. Ancient Egyptians had a polytheistic
religion; Ra was the sun god and creator of
life.

Polytheism – means worship of several
gods.
C.
Pyramids were tombs for the
mummified bodies of pharaohs and their
families.

The largest of all the pyramids
(called the Great Pyramid) was built for
King Khufu.
Standing guard over the pyramids is the
Great Sphinx, a rock sculpture with the
head of a pharaoh and the body of a lion.
As much of the brain as it is possible is extracted
through the nostrils with an iron hook, and what the
hook cannot reach is dissolved with drugs. Next,
the flank is slit open . . . and the entire contents of
the abdomen removed. The cavity is then
thoroughly cleansed and washed out . . . Then it is
filled with pure crushed myrrh, cassia, and all other
aromatic substances, except frankincense. [The
incision] is sewn up, and then the body is placed in
natron, covered entirely for 70 days, never longer.
When this period . . . is ended, the body is washed
and then wrapped from the head to the feet in linen
which has been cut into strips and smeared on the
underside with gum which is commonly used by the
Egyptians in the place of glue..Bob Brier, Egyptian
Mummies


Brain hooks, Oil jar,
Funnel, Embalmer's

knife
Canopic Jars

Mummified Animals
 Some have been found in large quantities, while
others are rare. Many species were raised in the
temples to be sacrificed to the gods. Autopsies on
cats show that most had had their necks broken
when they were about two years old. Cats were
highly valued members of the ancient Egyptian
household.
Cat

Cat

Dog

V. Pharaohs
A.

Egypt was ruled by a dynasty. A
dynasty is a family of rulers whose right
to rule is passed on within the family.
B.
The last Egyptian queen was Cleopatra.
VI. Hieroglyphics
This was an ancient Egyptian system of
writing that used pictures to represent words.

Modern people did not understand
hieroglyphics until the Rosetta Stone was
discovered in Egypt.
Carved into the Rosetta Stone was a message
written in hieroglyphics along with a
translation in Greek.
Egyptian Civilization

Egyptian science and alphabet was
NOT as elaborate as Mesopotamia,
though mathematics was more
advanced.
Egyptians produced the idea that a
“day” was divided in to 24 hours.
VII. Israelites

A. The Israelites (or Hebrews) emerged as
distinct group of people, who established a
united kingdom known as Israel.
B. King Solomon ruled from 970-930 B.C.,
he made Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
C. The Israelites eventually became known
as the Jews. Their religion became known
as Judaism.

The Jews were monotheistic; they
believed in only one God.
The Jewish word for God is Yahweh.
Yahweh is the creator of the world and
everything in it.
D.
The Jews believed that a covenant, or
contract, was made between them and
Yahweh.

Yahweh promised to help guide Moses
and the Jews out of bondage in Egypt to
the promise land.
In return, the Jews promised to obey the
Ten Commandments given to Moses on
Mount Sinai.
E. The Jews believed that certain religious
teachers, called Prophets, were sent by God
(Yahweh) to serve as his voice to his
people.

The Torah consists of the Jews’ most
sacred writings, including their code of
laws. The Torah also describes
traditions surrounding the creation of
the universe and contains a narrative
history of the Jews up to the death of
Moses.
India and China
I. Early Civilizations in India

A. As in Mesopotamia and Egypt, early
civilizations in India emerged in river valleys.
Around 2500 B.C. the valleys of the Indus
River supported a flourishing civilization,
known as the Harappans in cities of Harappa
and Mohenjo-Daro.
B. Around 1500 B.C., a group of nomadic
people known as the Aryans moved across
the Hindu Kush mountains into the plains
of Northern India.

They invaded and conquered the
Harappans and created a new Indian
society.
C. The Aryans created a caste system that
determined a person’s occupation and
economic potential, but also his position
in society.

(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)
(5)
Brahmans – priest
Kshatriyans - warriors
Vaisyas – merchants
sundras – peasants
untouchables
II. New Empires
A. Asoka, who ruled from 269-232 B.C., is
generally considered to be the greatest
ruler in the history of India.

A.
After his conversion to Buddhism, Asoka
used Buddhist ideals to guide his rule.
He set up hospitals for both people and
animals. He sent missionaries to China
and other parts of Asia, introducing Buddhism
to those areas.
C. India prospered because of the Silk Road;
silk was China’s most valuable product.

The Silk Road stretched from China to
Mesopotamia, covering 4,000 miles.
III. Early Chinese Civilizations
A.

The Shang dynasty created the 1st Chinese
civilization 1500 B.C..
Civilization along the Yellow River
(Huang He (Wong Chee)River)
Learned how to ride horses and were skilled
in pottery. Already were using bronze
(metal) and by 1000 B.C. were using iron.
Under the Shang, China developed organized
government and a system of writing.
B. The Chinese believed they could
communicate with supernatural forces
to obtain help in worldly affairs.

Priest would scratch questions asked by
rulers onto oracle bones. These bones
would be heated, causing them to crack.
The priest interpreted the cracks for
answers.
IV. Zhou Dynasty
A. Zhou (Joe) Dynasty was the first to claim
to rule with the Mandate of Heaven.

Mandate of Heaven meant the Chinese
king had authority from heaven to
command.
B.
The King was expected to rule according
to the proper “way” called the Dao. It
was the King’s duty to keep the gods
pleased in order to protect the people
from a natural disaster or a bad harvest.

C.
Promoted linguistic unity via a
standard spoken language
(Mandarin Chinese). Largest single
group of people speaking the
same language in the world at this
time.
Confucius
 As a wondering scholar-philosopher in Zhou China,
Kung Fuzi[kawng foo-zee] (Confucius) undertook a quest
to become chief advisor to a ruler who possessed the
wisdom to restore centralized control, peace, and order in
his realm
(like Aristotle philosopher-king).
 Though he never fulfilled this goal in his lifetime, his
students preserved, spread, and debated his teachings after
his death in the early 5th c B.C.E., and compiled his
teachings in the Analects. (Consider Greek philosophers,
the Buddha, and Jesus’ disciples).
 His social and political teachings formed the basis for one
of humanity’s greatest and most enduring civilizations.

V. Qin Dynasty and Han Dynasty

A. Qin (CHIN) Dynasty, ruler
Qin Shi huang (CHIN Shay Wong)
unified the Chinese world and built walls
known today as the Great Wall of China.
B.
Under the Han Dynasty, China
extended the borders of its empire and
brought scientific and cultural
achievements to China.