Download 01 Notes - From Prehistoric to Historic

Survey
yes no Was this document useful for you?
   Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the work of artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Document related concepts

Military of ancient Egypt wikipedia, lookup

Ancient Egyptian technology wikipedia, lookup

Prehistoric Egypt wikipedia, lookup

Transcript
Chapter One: From Prehistoric to Historic
A: the Rise of Civilization
Pre-humans are about 5 million years old and humans are about 2 million years old as a species. Most of
this time is known as the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. During this time primitive humans began to
develop high intelligence compared to other competitors. Lucy was one of these first hominids (human
or human like creatures) called Australopithecus. Lucy and her kin were the first to stand upright
allowing use of arms for specialized tasks. Their brain size was only 35% that of modern humans, but
they were able to devise tools, speak language and harness fire. In short they began to adapt nature for
themselves and not vice versa. About 750,000 years ago the Australophicines began to disappear and
were replaced by Homo erectus, or Upright Man. Homo Erectus was the first true human. More
sophisticated than Australopithecus, Homo erectus had a brain size 75% that of modern humans. Homo
Erectus used fire more efficiently and created more effective tools. Homo erectus lived in groups and
communities. They began to spread beyond the African continent into the temperate zones.
Then about 250,000 years ago, our direct ancestors, Homo sapiens or thinking man, evolved. Their
even larger brains probably made self-awareness and reflective thought possible and gave them such an
advantage that they replaced Homo erectus about 200,000 years ago. This remarkable intelligence
provided a powerful edge for survival in the natural world. Homo sapiens was thus able to adapt to
varying climatic conditions and to establish the species throughout the world. They helped to cause or
may alone have caused the extinction of many animal species, especially some large mammals such as
mammoths, mastodons and large kangaroos. Our immediate ancestors were Homo sapiens-sapiens; a
sub-species of Homo sapiens and from them come all modern humans. It is important to understand that
humanity did not develop like robots. There were many offshoots that died out and much intermixing
that characterized human development.
Perhaps the most well known of these early humans were the Neanderthal and the Cro-Magnon.
Neanderthal peoples, who were Homo sapiens, flourished between 200,000 and 35,000 years ago, and
were the first humans to have left record of reflective thought. Neanderthal archeological sites have been
found in Europe and Southwest Asia. Their reflective thought was revealed in their tombs. These tombs
held human remains buried with personal items such animal bones, tools and flowers, all which show
they had developed the capacity for sophisticated emotions and deep feelings. About 40,000 years ago,
Neanderthals were displaced by Cro-Magnon peoples, the first true Homo sapiens sapiens, and who, if
dressed and groomed like us, would be indistinguishable from us. Surviving Cro-Magnon artifacts
include huts, cave paintings, carvings and antler-tipped spears. Their tools suggest that they knew how
to make primitive woven clothing. They constructed homes of rocks, clay, bones, branches, and animal
hide/fur. They used manganese and iron oxides to paint pictures and may have created the first calendar
around 15,000 years ago.
It was the making of tools that distinguished hominids from their immediate ancestors. During the Old
Stone Age, most individuals were members of small bands of hunters and gatherers (sometimes called
Foragers) constantly moving in pursuit of game and plants, although some groups established longenduring settlements where they resided for much of the year. Population density was very low since
extensive land areas were necessary to support groupings that probably numbered no more than twenty
to thirty. Life expectancy averaged about twenty-five years, but that can be misleading due to high
mortality rates for women in labor and children. If a person lived to the age of twenty, his or her lifespan
often reached into the forties or fifties.
-1-
Males hunted, fished, and protected the band. Women gathered vital food supplies and herbal
medicines. Limited technological advances kept the scattered bands living in precarious life-styles.
Many scholars feel that male/female interdependence created a social equality. We know the CroMagnon peoples dressed in animal skins, used jewelry, and buried their dead lovingly.
Fertility was of paramount importance: no food equaled starvation. So they would make female
figurines (Venus Figurines) with exaggerated sexual characteristics which were probably used in
religious rites to increase fertility. They also believed in Sympathetic magic. In the caves of Altimira
(Spain) and Lascaux (France), we have examples of their cave paintings, pictures of animals which
would be “magically” killed in order to bring luck in the hunt for real animals to follow.
Then, (between 10,000 and 3500 B.C.E.) a major change occurred which fundamentally altered human
history and freed humanity from the precarious and dangerous life styles of the Old Stone Age. The
Middle Stone Age or Mesolithic Period is a transition period of time which is tied to a change in
human technology and organization that leads to the introduction of agriculture. Climatic shifts
associated with the close of the last Ice Age forced migration of game animals and changed wild crop
distribution. Slowly, sometimes by trial and error or by slow changes over time, many humans begin to
farm and establish permanent communities. The point at which agriculture and permanent communities
become established is called the Neolithic Revolution or New Stone Age.
This revolution did not happen suddenly and did not happen everywhere at the same time or same rate.
Thus, many historians do not like the term Neolithic Revolution, but prefer the term Neolithic
Transition. As humans experimented with grains they discovered and animals they domesticated (the
dog actually found them), they slowly found the advantages to settled existence. In forested areas,
hunter-gatherer peoples often adopted an intermediate step and the slash and burn method in which
they cleared land and farmed it until the land was exhausted – then they moved on to new lands,
repeating the process. In semi arid regions like the steppes of Southern Russia or modern Palestine
hunter-gatherers became pastoralists domesticating sheep and horses, but still using migratory patterns.
Thus it is crucial to understand that many if not most early peoples would continue their old
hunter/gatherer ways, but settle down for part of the year to raise crops or tend flocks of sheep or cattle.
We also know that in many places hunter/gatherer societies and agricultural societies lived side-by-side.
Nevertheless, as time went by, more and more peoples became agriculturalists, farming the land and/or
raising livestock, such as pigs, chickens, cattle, etc.
Nevertheless, Agricultural Society had many advantages. Agriculture provided new supplies of food –
and more stable supplies of food. Thus agriculture provided surplus of food and, for the first time,
human beings were able to produce more food than they needed to survive. This leads us to one of the
first axioms of World History.
More food equals more people!
Natural disaster could still cause harm and threaten survival, but agriculture made humans more
independent of nature. More food meant more population. More population meant specialization of
labor, the development of social distinctions, the birth of villages and then cities and complex beliefs
such as religious values, geometry and logic. To repeat, it is very important to understand that the
Neolithic Revolution took place at different times and at different rates in different parts of the world.
As a result, many historians prefer the term Agricultural Transition. However, whether, slow or fast,
the change from hunter-gatherer to sedentary farming is revolutionary!
-2-
It is also important to remember that the terms agricultural, transition and sedentary do not necessarily
mean sitting in one spot or one farm. Pastoral cultures usually domesticated animals but not grains (at
least, not at first) while farming societies both domesticated animals and became farmers. Like the
Native Americans of North America or the nomads of Central Asia pastoral nomads wandered, but did
not wander aimlessly. They followed the seasonal rains and grasses – and they moved their herds of
sheep, goats, cattle and horses accordingly. This meant that they did not developed complex civilizations
as quickly as farming cultures.
The Neolithic Revolution/Transition also created a technological revolution. No longer did people use
stone axes, but now began to develop sophisticated tools such as needles, metal tools and weapons,
grinding stones, sickle blades and pottery. Although animal skins were still used, more sophisticated
pins and animal bones were used. However more significantly, weaving begins to take root, as woolen
and linen clothing become more common.
Neolithic peoples - both sedentary and forager – knew astronomy and the course of the sun, moon and
the stars, as demonstrated at the great Stonehenge Monument in Southern England. This circular
wonder was built of giant stones carried from Wales (135 miles away) and probably used for religious
purposes. Stonehenge dates from 3200 to 2500 BCE and also shows a unique awareness of astronomy
aligning itself with the sun, especially at the winter solstice.
Around 3,500 BCE the Agricultural Revolution began to bring forth complex cultures and Civilization.
Culture comes from the Latin colere (to cultivate) and civilization from the Latin civis (citizen). Both
represent aspects of growing human interaction. For our purposes, the terms are interchangeable and the
book defines culture as learned patters of action and expression.
Fluvial and Incipient Civilizations
It is important to understand that for farming to emerge people needed a steady supply of water and so
most early farming civilizations were fluvial, which means that they developed along rivers.
1. The oldest (at least 8,000 BCE) was probably the Mesopotamian Civilization which lay
between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern Iraq, and which became a center of wheat
(millet) and barley production.
2. Second, (dating to 7,000 BCE) was the Chinese along the Yellow River in Northern China,
which also grew a type of wheat, called millet. (The rice growing southern Chinese along the
Yangtze comes later)
3. Third, (dating to around 6,000 BCE) was the Egyptian, the gift of the Nile, which grew up along
the Nile River in Northern Africa (both again raising millet and barley). Gentle flooding from the
Nile provided the moisture and fertilization necessary for large-scale farming.
4. Lastly, (dating to 5,500 BCE) was the Indus River Valley Civilization or Harappan which
developed complex civilization along the Indus River in modern Pakistan by 3,300 BCE.
--------------------------------4
It is important to understand that not all incipient civilizations were fluvial. In the Americas, North
America remained predominantly hunter/gatherer with some experiments in agricultural settlement. But
in Central America or Meso-America, complex cultures began to flourish and develop around 1800
BCE. From 1200 to 400 the Olmecs developed the first true complex civilization and grew maize (corn),
beans and squash. South American Andean cultures began to emerge around 1400 BCE and grains in
lowland valleys and potatoes in the highlands. In Southeast Asia inland agricultural societies formed
around rice cultivation and by 2500 the seafaring Austronesians established complex trading networks
that took agriculture out into the Pacific Ocean Basin.
-3-
By 5,000 BCE, Southern China and Southeast Asia were growing rice and, by 2,000 BCE, Central
Africa was growing millet and yams. Again, it is very important to understand the lack of uniformity, as
civilizations developed at different rates in different places. As the Neolithic Age went by, more
societies began to combine agriculture with the domestication of animals. And this meant more food
which in turn meant more people which in turn led to specialization of labor which meant that new tools
and new technologies were invented.
As time went by the Stone ages gave way to the Bronze Age when bronze plows, needles, shovels and
swords replaced stone axes and knives and needles made from antlers and bone. The Bronze Age is said
to have lasted from 3,500 to 1,200 BCE. Bronze does not naturally occur as an ore, rather it is an alloy
of tin and copper and the advantage of bronze is its strength and durability.
Harder still was iron and so the Iron Age eventually replaced the Bronze Age. The ancient Hittites of
Anatolia were said to be the first to develop iron metallurgy around 1300 BCE in Anatolia, but some
scholars say that India iron implements date even earlier. At any rate, by 1200 BCE, the Iron Age was
replacing the Bronze Age in the Near East, India and Greece. By 600, the Bantu in West Africa along
with China and Europe were smelting iron. China even produced Cast Iron by the 550s BCE.
Thus, our study of world history formally begins with those complex cultures, which grow in population
to the point where sizeable numbers of people lived in cities and extended their political, social,
economic and cultural influence over large regions. Anthropologists estimate that in 70,000 BCE there
were probably 2,000 humans on average, but by 10,000 BCE that changes with the growth of agriculture
and civilizations:
Year
10,000 BCE
9,000 BCE
8,000 BCE
7,000 BCE
6,000 BCE
5,000 BCE
Population
1,000,000
3,000,000
5,000,000
7,000,000
10,000,000
15,000,000
Year
4,000 BCE
3,000 BCE
2,000 BCE
1,000 BCE
500 BCE
1 BCE
Population
20,000,000
25,000,000
35,000,000
50,000,000
100,000,000
200,000,000
B: Ancient Mesopotamia: The Land between the Rivers
Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, was called the Fertile Crescent, which
is a giant alluvial plain in which there is little rainfall but a warm and fertile soil. Its earliest farming
settlements date to 8,000 BCE and, by 5,000 BCE; large-scale agriculture was creating complex
societies. By 4,000 rudimentary plows were in use. By 3,000 canals were constructed to take water
farther distances. The primary crop was barley, but date palms were also cultivated.
Between 3,000 and 2,300, the Sumerians developed the World History’s first true civilization and laid
foundations that influenced Mesopotamia for centuries. They created highly centralized city-states
governed by a theocracy or small ruling class of priests, aristocrats and a king. The Sumerians also
invented the wheel, initially for potter's wheels (but quickly adapted to carts) and a written language
using wedge markings in clay called cuneiform. They also invented a calendar and rudimentary clock.
The first empire builder was Sargon, king of Akkad, who in 2,334 finally united all the small Sumerian
city-states. Sargon was a Semite who created a strong centralized state administered by governors. He
also standardized weights and measures and skillfully managed tax collection. By 2,100 Sargon’s
successors had lost control and the Akkadian empire dissolved. After a period of decline
-4-
(decentralization), there was a revival of Sumerian culture with the five kings of the Third Dynasty of
Ur. They even erected a 125-mile long wall to defend against another group of Semites, the Amorites,
but the Amorites and other nomadic incursions brought down Ur in 2004.
The Amorites built a new city near Akkad and called it Babylon, which became the capitol of the
Babylonian Empire. The Babylonians dominated the Fertile Crescent from 1,900 to 1,600. Their greatest
king was Hammurabi who created one of the world’s first law codes. Although his law code favored
the rich and powerful and was harsh and retaliatory (Lex Talonis – “eye for and eye”), it was
nevertheless the first systematic law code of world history. The Babylonians also created one of the
wonders of the ancient world: the blue-tiled Ishtar Gate, the fortified entrance to Babylon.
Around 1,600 Hittite and other Indo European invaders from Anatolia overwhelmed the Babylonian
Empire. These Hittites called themselves Hatti and were famous for their skill in building and using
chariots. Moreover, they were the pioneers of the Iron Age, manufacturing iron artifacts from as early as
the 14th century BC; probably making them the first people to systematically use iron metallurgy.
Later Egyptian invaders ruled Mesopotamia until around 911 when a powerful nation, the Assyrians,
returned imperial power to the Fertile Crescent. The Assyrians used Babylonian administrative
techniques, but also used fear and brutal repression to maintain their authority. Even their art shows
massively powerful and intimidating rulers and soldiers. The Assyrian war machine was greatly feared
and the Assyrians made use of the chariot as an effective military weapon. At their high point, all the
Fertile Crescent including Egypt and Cyprus. However, the Assyrians were so cruel and hated that when
their empire collapsed in 612 almost all vestiges of their society were obliterated.
Nevertheless, the Assyrians are important in World History as the first people to create a true
empire as opposed to large regional states. The difference is that a regional kingdom controls an area
that may be large or small, but its peoples are related whereas an empire controls far-flung lands and
diverse peoples with many customs and languages.
From 600 to 550 a Neo Babylonian Empire ruled Mesopotamia. Its most famous king was
Nebuchadnezzar (605-562) whose Hanging Gardens of Babylon cultural renaissance made Babylon
one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Built for Nebuchadnezzar’s wife, Amytis of Media, these
magnificent multi-leveled gardens reached 75 feet high, complete with pumps for circulating water and
vegetation so lush that unveiled women could walk through them without being seen.
Nevertheless, Nebuchadnezzar ruled ruthlessly in the manner of the Assyrians. His conquest of the
southern Kingdom of Judah and it capital Jerusalem (which we shall discuss at the end of this chapter)
was particularly brutal and included the deporting of much of the Jewish population to Babylon (the so
called Babylonian Captivity). However, all that would change with the coming of Cyrus the Persian
or Cyrus the Great, whom we will meet in the next chapter.
Mesopotamian Culture
Early Mesopotamian peoples (especially the Sumerians) were skilled builders and artisans creating brick
cities, beautiful pottery and skilled bronze work. They built pyramid-like temples, called ziggurats, to
honor their gods and goddesses. They were excellent mathematicians and astronomers. It is important
for us to understand that in astronomy, everything to ancient people was seen to have some purpose,
usually related to religion and omens. Thus the Mesopotamians, who lived under the stars, became
famous for their skill in Astrology. Moreover, they used a base-sixty number system, which we still use
in counting minutes and seconds.
-5-
Social Strata: In early Mesopotamia, the ruling classes [or elites] consisted of urban kings and nobles
who won their positions because of valor and success as warriors. Their status quickly became
hereditary. They were often considered offspring of the gods or part god and part human as described in
the Epic of Gilgamesh. Closely allied with the ruling elite were priests and priestesses, who were many
times younger members of royal / elite families. Their cults and temple estates were great sources of
money both from gifts and the income these estates earned by herding sheep and goats or farming or
manufacturing.
After the political and religious elites, came the less privileged: free commoners, dependent clients and
slaves, which formed the bulk of the population. Free Commoners were mostly peasants who lived on
their own farms, but sometimes worked in cities as builders, craftsmen or professionals such as doctors
or engineers.
Dependent clients worked for others mostly as peasant laborers on agricultural estates owned by the elite
and like serfs, they gave a large portion of their productions to the elite. Free Commoners also paid these
taxes and both groups were often conscripted into the army or into labor forces for large-scale public
works. Lastly, there were slaves who came from three sources: prisoners of war, convicted criminals and
heavily indebted individuals who sold themselves or family members into slavery. Most slaves worked
as agricultural laborers, but occasionally became domestic servants. Slaves could even earn freedom.
Mesopotamia's oldest literary work, the Epic of Gilgamesh, dates to Sumerians times, but emerged after
2,000 and not only told the story of a king trying to seek immortality, but also gives a glimpse of
Mesopotamian moral principles.
C: Egypt: the Gift of the Nile
The Sahara Desert was not always a desert. 12,000 years ago it was a fertile land in which the Neolithic
Revolution took hold. About 9,000 BCE, a drying trend began and by 5,000 it made much of Northern
Africa unusable for heavy agriculture, except for Egypt. This drying trend has continued into modern
times and no end seems in sight. At any rate, agricultural communities began to appear along the Nile as
the river flooded gently every spring and deposited silt on the flat lands nearby. This meant that the soil
was never exhausted and made the land around the Nile a literal breadbasket. Around 5,000 BCE there
is organized agricultural communities along the Nile; by 4,000 BCE small kingdoms began to appear
from Aswan all the way to the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, further upstream, Nubia also began to form
small kingdoms but with smaller flood plains their agricultural abundance was not as great and so, they
did not develop complex civilization as quickly as Egypt.
Egyptian history began around 3,100 BCE when Menes (also called Narmer) united Lower and Upper
Egypt. Menes and his successors built a centralized state that is traditionally divided into three periods
or Kingdoms. The Old Kingdom appeared around 2,575 and lasted until 2134. Old Kingdom Pharaohs
were probably the strongest of all Egyptian rulers; they controlled most the Eastern Mediterranean and
built the great pyramids.
Eventually, the Old Kingdom broke down under weak pharaohs and strong warlords. A weaker and less
centralized Middle Kingdom (2040-1640) followed, before invaders called the Hyksos crushed the
Middle Kingdom. However, around 1530, the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom drove out the Hyksos and
brought another period of Egyptian dominance, which lasted until 1070. Pharaohs like Thutmosis III
and Ramses II ruled an empire from Nubia to the Fertile Crescent. Then came another feudal period and
by the 900s Egypt had lost its independence except for brief periods
-6-
Like Mesopotamia, Egypt developed its own unique culture. Its pictographic writing was called
hieroglyphics in which symbols representing sounds and ideas. The term hieroglyphs came from two
Greek words meaning "holy inscriptions.” Hieroglyphics were unreadable until the early 19th century
CE. In 1799, some French soldiers of Napoleon Bonaparte unearthed the stone at called the Rosetta
Stone. It had three rows of writing on it in two languages, Egyptian and Greek, using three scripts,
Hieroglyphic, Demotic Egyptian and Greek. Jean-François Champollion, a French linguist, used the
Demotic and the Greek to first translate hieroglyphics in the early 1820s.
Like the Mandate of Heaven concept in China, the Egyptians believed that the gods had placed the
pharaoh on earth as a living god to maintain ma’at or a divinely authorized authority. Because the
Egyptians saw in the Pharaoh the source of law and justice, they never developed law codes like that of
Hammurabi. The Egyptians also had an elites (nobility), priests, free commoners, dependent clients and
slaves, but their bureaucracy was organized much differently. Early Mesopotamia was land with many
urban kings and regional empires, whereas the Egyptians were united in one land and recognized their
pharaoh as the supreme central rule. Thus, Egypt had fewer members in its noble (elite) class. This
shortage created a shortage in upper and middle levels of management and administration. So, Egypt
developed professional military forces on a large scale along with a professional bureaucracy, which
included administrators, tax collectors and scribes.
As a result, one importance social difference between Egypt and Mesopotamia was that in Egypt is
was easier for individuals of common birth to attain high government positions (including social
honors and benefits) by personal merit and service to the pharaoh – positions what would be
unthinkable in Mesopotamian society.
The Egyptians had a complex and detailed religion with many gods and goddesses. The most important
god was Re, the sun god, and Amon, the air god, both of whom were worshiped in a combined cult
Heliopolis, the city of the sun, near Memphis. Perhaps the most crucial part of Egyptian religion dealt
with life after death, the idea that death was a gateway to an afterlife. Egyptian religion taught a man,
Osiris, had been murdered by his brother, Seth, who scattered his dismembered body around the earth.
Osiris’ wife, Isis, retrieved the parts of his body and the gods, impressed by her loyalty, restored him to
life. Nevertheless, he was not restored to earthly life, but he became king and judge of the underworld.
Like the Nile, which appeared to die and then rose to renew life, Osiris was connected to the idea of
immortality. Thus, although Egyptian religion was polytheistic, it had a strong moral dimension in that
every person was judged and either rewarded or punished in the afterlife.
Accordingly, the Egyptians had elaborate mummification and burial customs to help a person to their
journey to the next world. In the Old Kingdom, pharaohs constructed enormous pyramids, but in later
periods, they build rock cut tombs. Both were filled with things that the ruler would need in the next life.
Artifacts found are today priceless. Lesser persons had simpler graves and the poor left their bodies to
the sands of the desert. Egypt for a short time in the New Kingdom even flirted with monotheism (the
worship of one god) when the Pharaoh Amenhotep IV named himself Akhenaten to honor the god
Aten. He considered Aten, the solar disc, to be the only true god. His reign was short (he was probably
removed by force) and the old gods restored.
In realm of technology, the Egyptians were skilled mathematicians, surveyors and engineers as their
pyramids and temples still bear witness. They were also skilled physicians (they even performed brain
surgery) and the first to use cement, as we know it. They were also the first to use the decimal system.
They were skilled artisans, as is evident from the jewelry, gold statues, glass beads, jars, figurines and
ornaments discovered in their tombs.
-7-
The Position of Women in Southwest Asian Society
Both Egyptian and Mesopotamian emerged as strong Patriarchal societies and men held unquestioned
authority, deciding what duties each member of the household would perform and even marriage
arrangements. With very few exceptions, men dominated public life. However, that said, in Egypt,
lineage was through the female line. A few women served as regents for young rulers and some even
took the title of Pharaoh. The most famous was Hatshepsut who is generally regarded by Egyptologists
as one of the most successful pharaohs. Thus, it is important to note that women had much more
influence and freedom in Egyptian society than Mesopotamian.
The status of women was much less influential in Mesopotamia. From Hammurabi’s law code, we see
that men even had the power to sell their wives and children into slavery to satisfy debts. Women caught
in adultery were executed, but men were allowed to have relations with concubines, slaves or prostitutes
without penalty. As time went by, Mesopotamian men actually increased sexual and social control over
women. By1500 BCE, Mesopotamian women were forced to wear veils in public. (Later on we will see
how this strong patriarchal tyranny the affected the Greeks, the Byzantines even Islam.) Nevertheless,
in both Egypt and Mesopotamia, women of the social elite often made their influence felt, especially as
priestesses and scribes. However, this was the exception not the norm. Middle and lower class women in
both cultures often worked as midwives, shopkeepers, brewers, bakers, tavern keepers and weavers.
D: China, the Rise of the Middle Kingdom
Chinese civilization takes genesis in Northern China. China has two major river systems: the Huang He
in the north (also called the Yellow River or “China’s sorrow” because of its frequent flooding) and the
Yangtze further south. Around 7,000 BCE Neolithic villages began to grow rice in the south and millet
(wheat) in the north. Then around 5,000 BCE, the Yangshao Society emerged along the Huang He and
flourished from about 5,000 to about 3,000 BCE.
According to the Chinese historian Sima Qian (who lived 140 to 90 BCE), the first true dynasty of
China was the Xia (shyah), which flourished in Northern China from 2,200 to 1,722 BCE.
Unfortunately, archeologists have not discovered any Xia sites and there are no written records so that
most of what is known is legend. Most interesting are the legends about three sage-kings: Yao who was
virtuous and brought harmony to Chinese society, Shun who ordered the four seasons and Yu who
worked so hard to tame the floods of the Huang He that he became the founder of the Xia.
Then a new dynasty arose in northern China, the Shang. The Shang produced the first written records in
Chinese History and lasted from 1766 to 1122 B.C.E. Archeology has yielded elaborate tombs, which
reveal powerful bronze metallurgy. Politically, we know that the Shang were feudal and decentralized,
and there existed a strong military elite. In 1122, the Zhou dynasty replaced the Shang. The Zhou were
also feudal and decentralized, but larger than the Shang reaching as far south as the Yangtze River. Most
importantly, with the Zhou, Chinese history comes into clear perspective and before the Zhou collapsed
in 256, Chinese culture had fully emerged.
It is important to understand that, during these early dynasties, China expanded outward from its
Northern base. First, Chinese culture moved south to China’s other great river valley, the Yangtze,
where agricultural surpluses had led to growing population and the development of cities. This
economic expansion supported and nourished southern Chinese development and caused the southern
Chinese to imitate and copy the political and social traditions of the north. Second, Chinese culture
spread westward to the nomadic peoples of the steppes, or grasslands of Central Asia. These nomadic
peoples resisted Chinese culture but built a symbiotic relationship in economic affairs. The nomads
became dependent on Chinese grains and manufactured goods while the Chinese became dependent on
the horses raised on the steppes.
-8-
Although the Xia, Shang and Zhou were complex societies that built cities, they were nonetheless feudal
and decentralized in character. This situation occurred because roads and transportation systems were
poor and the size of the state was getter larger and larger. In other words, these early rulers had to entrust
the administration of outlying provinces to subordinates who were far away and who (the ruler hoped)
would give allegiance, tribute and military support to the central government.
This feudal system worked well when the central government was strong enough so that subordinates
governed their territories on behalf of the central government, especially delivering tax revenues and
supplying military forces. Nevertheless, the system eventually failed because subordinates gradually
established their own bases of power. They then ruled their territories as warlords, following their own
laws and enforcing them with their own armies. As these war lords grew more independent, they
stopped delivering tax revenues, stopped providing military forces for the central government and
gradually built up their own regional states. Thus, by the eighth century, Zhou emperors had lost control
to local warlords. As iron replaced bronze, the emperors could not maintain their control of iron
technology. Therefore, by 771, the western half of the empire collapsed ushering in the Period of
Warring States in which feudal warlords competed for power and the nominal Zhou emperor was
impotent.
The Roots of Chinese Culture
Political Theory: Zhou political theory rested on the assumption that earthly events were closely related
to heavenly affairs. More specifically, heavenly powers granted the right to govern or “the Mandate of
Heaven” to an especially deserving individual known as the ‘Son of Heaven.” This Son of Heaven then
served as a link between heaven and earth. He had the duty to govern conscientiously, observe high
standards of honor and justice, and to maintain order and harmony within his realm. As long as he did
so, the heavenly powers would approve of his work, the cosmos would enjoy a harmonious and wellbalanced stability, and the ruling dynasty would retain its mandate to govern. If a ruler failed in his
duties, however, chaos and suffering would afflict his realm, the cosmos would fall out of balance, and
the displeased heavenly powers would withdraw the Mandate of Heaven and transfer it to a more
deserving candidate. This latter point was used to justify the overthrow of one family (dynasty) the
Shang, by another, the Zhou.
Social Structure: (1) At the top of the Chinese Social Order was the Royal Family and allied noble
families. These ruling elites or aristocrats enjoyed the most prestige and held the most honored
positions. They made their power hereditary by military domination and marriage alliances; they
controlled extensive estates and dominated military and administrative posts. (2) Below the ruling elite
was a small class of free artisans who lived in cities, worked for the aristocrats and had a reasonably
comfortable existence. (3) Below the artisans was another small class of merchants and traders about
whom little is known, except that from archeological finds we know they traded extensively throughout
East Asia and the Indian Ocean Basin. (4) The largest group were semi-servile peasants who worked the
aristocrats’ land, provided military and labor services and gave a portion of their agricultural crops as
rent to the aristocrats. (5) Lastly, there was a large class of slaves, most of whom were captured in war.
They performed the hardest labor, such as clearing land or heavy construction - and, sometimes, were
sacrificed at funeral or religious ceremonies.
Veneration of Ancestors: the Chinese custom of Veneration of Ancestors has its roots deep in
Neolithic times. The Chinese believed that the spirits of their ancestors at death passed into another
realm of existence from which they had the power to support and protect their descendents who
displayed proper respect and ministered to the departed spirits’ needs, as with food and drink offerings.
-9-
The root idea was that the family consisted of the living and the dead who worked together towards the
common interest and good of the family. Thus, the living family was linked to long departed ancestors
and to the yet unborn. Moreover, as there was no organized religion outside of the emperor’s court, the
male head of the family presided at the rites and ceremonies honoring the family’s ancestors.
Patriarchal Society: So it is important to understand that, in the absence of an organized priesthood, the
male head of the family was the mediator between the living and the dead and, as such, had tremendous
authority in his own household over both the public and private affairs of its members. When collateral
(i.e. cousins, uncles, etc.) and subordinate family branches were factored, the authority of the male head
of the household extended to hundreds of individuals. The result was an incredibly powerful patriarchal
society. In Neolithic and early Xia times, men were the heads of households in a strong patriarchal
society and like Egypt men held their authority by descent through the female line. However, as time
went by, male domination increased, so that, by Zhou times, the emphasis on male authority had become
so strong that women lived completely in the shadow of men.
Court Religion: Although China had no organized religion and few priests, Chinese thinkers believed in
a spirit called Shangdi, an omnipotent, Supreme Being. Over time, Shangdi became synonymous with
Tian, or Heaven. This resulted in the Worship of Heaven which was a highly ritualistic ceremonial in
which the emperor and his priests worshipped at an Altar of Heaven. This worship was closely linked
with ancestor veneration, so it was a state version of the Veneration of Ancestors. But this court
religion was remote from most Chinese and as a result China evolved into the most secular culture
of the Classical world. It is also interesting to note that Christian missionaries of the early centuries of
the Common Era (CE or AD) translated the word God into Chinese by using Shangdi. Nevertheless,
the Worship of Heaven did have one major consequence: the evolution of Chinese writing.
Chinese Writing: Unlike Mesopotamia and India where writing developed from the needs of merchants
and traders, Chinese writing developed from court ritual and the desire to know the future. So, the oldest
medium of Chinese writing is on Oracle Bones, which were instruments used by fortunetellers, or
Diviners, in ancient China. Diviners would use specially prepared flat bones, such as shoulder bones or
turtle shells, write a question on them, heat them over very hot coals and “read” the cracks caused by the
heat. In this manner, they were no different from the Delphic Oracle of ancient Greece or the druid
priests in Celtic Europe.
The linguistic significance of Oracle Bones is that they tell us how ancient Chinese writing developed.
From the pictographs on surviving Oracle Bones can be seen the earliest forms of modern Chinese
characters. Like alphabetic languages, a pictograph – over time – becomes more stylized into an
ideograph. In alphabetic languages each ideograph represents a sound (like d (D) for delta), but in
Chinese each ideograph represents a word, like the idea of good expressed by the stylized pictograph of
a mother and child. Thus, in Chinese there are thousands (5,000 in modern Chinese) of characters or
ideograms, where in alphabetic languages twenty to fifty symbols usually suffice.
Chinese Philosophy
Confucianism: Chinese culture was dominated by search for harmony and order in life and the most
influential philosopher (or seeker of that harmony) was Kong Fuzi or Confucius (551 – 479 BCE). He
came from an aristocratic family in northern China. He wanted very badly to become an important man
in the government, but with his strong will, he never secured any appointment of meaning. However, as
an educator and political advisor, he left a profound legacy on China and Chinese culture that survives to
this day.
- 10 -
Confucius believed that proper balance and order in human relationships would bring about social and
political harmony. He believed that personal virtue was the key to human dignity and social order; and
that this personal virtue could only be achieved by cultivation of the mind. Thus, Confucius taught that
the best way to create good government was to fill it with well-educated and extraordinarily
conscientious individuals, called Junzi or superior ones.
These Junzi had to possess three key virtues: ren (benevolence or human heartedness), li (propriety or
honorable behavior), and xiao (filial piety or the respect the lesser owes to the greater). Thus, as
important as superior academic learning was, it was more important to possess a strong sense of moral
integrity and a capacity to deliver wise and fair judgments. To be a Junzi meant to serve society and
social harmony depended on each person accepting his or her social station and performing his or her
required duties. Obedience and deference were owed to one’s superiors and elders, to males from
females, and to teachers from students. Confucius disciples called him “Master Philosopher Kong.” Like
Jesus of Nazareth, the Buddha and Muhammad, Confucius wrote nothing but his followers wrote down
his sayings, which are called the Analects. (Thus the expression, “Confucius says…”)
Two of Confucius disciples who lived many years after his death are worthy of note because they
contributed to the tradition of Confucian thinking. The first was Mencius (Meng Ko) (372 – 289), who
lived during the later years of the Period of the Warring States. He wrote commentaries on the Analects
and was most influential man of his times becoming the principal spokesman for the Confucian school
of thought. He believed that human nature was essentially good and he argued for a government based
on benevolence and humanitarian principles in order to bring out this interior human goodness. He was a
naive optimist, but his writings extremely important because influenced later Confucian thinking in that
he emphasized self-refinement sophistication and self-cultivation.
The second was of these disciples Xunzi (298 – 238) lived in the closing years of the Period of the
Warring States. He was man of immense erudition and sophistication and actually served in the
government. But in contrast to Mencius, he believed that human nature was naturally selfish and greedy;
so he called for a government that would vigilant and ready to impose harsh social discipline. He too,
although opposite to Mencius, influenced later Confucian thinking. Stop and think: Mencius
emphasized ren, Xunzi emphasized li, but Confucius emphasized xiao.
Daoism (Taoism): Daoism was first popularized by a man named Laozi (Lao Tsu), who lived 300
years before Confucius. There were many fantastic legends about Laozi, but whatever his actual
background, Laozi he became known as legendary thinker who despised government and had no use for
personal ambition. He called people to live a life of reflection and introspection and he criticized the
Confucian ideal of social activism. Dao (Tao) in Chinese means “the way.” and so his disciples named
his solution to life’s dilemmas, Daoism or Taoism.
The chief moral virtue of Daoism was wuwei or disengagement from the world, especially in the
area of political ambition or personal striving. Therefore, Daoists urged their followers to remove
themselves from the everyday competitive nature of the world and urged inaction instead of action.
Interestingly, Daoists also experimented with what we call natural or holistic medicine and their
techniques are used by Chiropractors and homeopaths to the very day.
Legalism was founded by Shang Yang (390 – 338) and is the last important school of Chinese
thought. Shang Yang was a ruthless and efficient government administrator who was assassinated by his
enemies because of his draconian ways. The most influential of his successors, Han Feizi, synthesized
Legalist ideas in a collection of powerful and well-argued essays on statecraft called the Book of the
Lord Shang, which reasoned that the foundations of the state’s strength were agriculture and the
armed forces.
- 11 -
So legalists sought to channel as many individuals as possible into agriculture or military service, while
discouraging careers as merchants, entrepreneurs, scholars, educators, philosophers, poets or artisans,
because those pursuits did not benefit the state. They differed from Confucian thinkers (even Xunzi) in
that Confucian thinkers wanted to induce humans to behave humanely, but Legalist thinkers felt that
order had to be imposed forcefully by the state. Their working motto:
E: Dravidian and Aryan India
Although there were permanent settlements in Northern India in the Ganges River Valley as long as
9,000 years ago (7,000 BCE), the story of historical India really begins in northwestern India, in what is
today Pakistan. As the Nile River gave genesis to Egyptian civilization, the Huang He to Chinese and
the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to the Mesopotamian civilizations, so the Indus River (flowing out of
the Hindu Kush Mountains) gave genesis to Indus Valley Civilization, also called Harappan
Civilization. The Indus was typically more violent than the Nile, but its annual flooding made crops of
wheat and barley flourish. Around 3,000 BCE, the resulting agricultural surpluses supported the
establishment of cities and towns of which the two largest were Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
Both cities, possibly twin capitals, had a fortified citadel and a large granary with broad streets, market
places, temples, public buildings and established patterns of culture, such as unique architectural styles.
We know their sophisticated artisans were skilled potters and worked in gold and silver. We know they
had standardized weights, measures and brick sizes. We know their merchants traded with Mesopotamia
and Egypt – and probably Central Asia as well. Artifacts and uncovered cities indicate complex social
distinctions and religious beliefs, which strongly emphasized fertility. Sadly, we know nothing about
their political system or language.
Harappan society fell into decline around 2,000 BCE. Some think it was because of natural disaster, but
the most common theory is that the Harappans exhausted the soil by over-farming and deforestation,
which, in turn, caused an ecological disaster making most of what is Pakistan today a desert, which
supports agriculture only with the aid of irrigation. At any rate, Harappans seemed to abandon their
cities around 1,700 BCE.
The Harappans were probably Dravidians, a racial-linguistic group, who were the original inhabitants
of the Indian subcontinent. No one knows for sure the origin of the Dravidians, but many legends and
modern historians alike believe the Dravidians originated in Southern India and spread northward to the
entire Indian Subcontinent. Ancient Greek authors (Herodotus and Homer) called them Eastern
Ethiopians, but modern genetic studies have found not evidence to support this hypothesis. However, we
do know that, as the Indus River Valley Civilization fell into decline, India became home to IndoEuropean invaders who called themselves Aryans.
These Aryans were Indo Europeans and probably originated in and around the Steppes or grasslands of
Southern Russia. They were nomads who were probably the first people to domesticate horses and hitch
their animals to carts and wagons. They were probably riding horses as early as the fifth millennium
BCE. At any rate, not only did the horse give the Indo Europeans the means to migrate over vast areas of
the Eurasian continent, the horse also gave them a military advantage over the indigenous peoples with
whom them came into contact. This, in turn, allowed them to establish a strong presence from India to
the British Isles, as seen by their linguistic descendents. In fact, much has been learned about the Indo
Europeans by studying the languages they “deposited” in these far stretched lands. (For example,
consider the word for mother: Sanskrit, matar; Ancient Persian, matar; Greek, meter; Latin, mater;
French, mere; Anglo Saxon, modor; Spanish, madre; Old Irish, mathir; and Russian, mat’.)
- 12 -
These “invasions” were actually more like migrations and took place over hundreds of years. They may
have played a role in the abandonment of Harappan cities, but it is more likely that these Indo European
“invaders” came to settle in the fertile Ganges River Valley in Northern India and then spread over the
entire Indian subcontinent. After 1,500 BCE, they dominated and intermarried with the Dravidian
inhabitants and the resulting interaction produced the Indian culture that we know today. Aryan (cf., Erie
and Iran) means nobleman or lord and their social orders rested on sharp, well-defined hereditary
distinctions, which largely determined the status of any given individual in society. Thus, Aryan society
evolved the Caste System or Varna with four levels of stratification or hierarchy:
1.
2.
3.
4.
Brahmins were the guardians of knowledge of spirituality; that is, priests;
Kshatriya were the protectors, that is, soldiers and incipient aristocrats;
Vaishya were the merchants, artisans and landowners;
Shudra were laborers and peasants.
The Aryans prided themselves that their skin was “wheat colored” and they looked down on the darker
skinned Dravidians. Thus, the Dravidians were not included in the Varna and given the least desirable
status and occupations. Their descendents became the “Untouchables” of later times. Today they are
called Dalits. The Aryans also created a strong patriarchal and patrilineal society (which meant that
name, rank and occupation come from the father’s line as opposed to the matrilineal or the mother’s
line). Families, moreover – as in China prayed for abundance of sons and undervalued daughters.
It is important to understand that this period of interaction between Indo-European and Dravidians lasted
from 1,500 to 500 BCE and is called the Vedic Age. As the Aryans gradually settled in India, they found
it hard to give up their pastoral ways. Like other Indo-Europeans, they were warriors and glorified
fighting. Thus, Vedic society idealized the nomadic lifestyle, with cattle rearing being the chief
occupation. Horses and cattle were held in high esteem; goddesses often being compared to cows, and
gods to bulls. As time went by, agriculture gradually grew more prominent and Vedic India achieved
political stability. However, this stability did not lead to large-scale unity, because, as the Vedic age
matured, India was gradually divided up into small kingdoms each ruled by a Raja or king whose main
duty was to protect his tribe.
The Aryan sacred language, called Sanskrit, was a memorized medium by which their legends, hymns,
prayers and rituals were passed down from generation to generation. The earliest of these works were
called the Vedas and the most important was the Rig Veda, which was a collection of over a thousand
hymns addressed to the Aryan gods. These Vedas, written down by 600BCE, describe a boisterous,
raucous, warlike society not unlike the Celts and the Scandinavians, who not only conquered the weaker
Dravidians, but also fought incessantly among themselves.
F: Smaller but important Cultures
Four more civilizations need also to be mentioned as they help lay the foundations of Classical
Civilization and the expansion of the Neolithic Transition. The Hebrews and the Phoenicians were
Semites like many other Mesopotamian peoples, but both made unique contributions to World
Civilization. Nubia (located in modern Sudan) was a conduit from the Mediterranean and Southwest
Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa and the East Coast of Africa. And finally, the Minoan Civilization which
may or may not have been Greek and the Achaean Civilization which was most certainly Greek laid the
foundations for the great civilizations of the Mediterranean Basin.
- 13 -
The Hebrews, Israelites, Jews
The Hebrews were shepherds and nomads who originally lived on the fringes of Mesopotamian society
and honored many of the same gods as their Mesopotamian neighbors. Their history begins with
Abraham who lived near the Mesopotamian city of Ur around 2000 BCE. Abraham was told by his God
to move his family westward to a land called Canaan which is today modern Palestine or Israel. Here
Abraham makes a covenant with his God and through his son Isaac and Isaac’s sons he became the
ancestor of the Hebrew or Israelite people. Later, famine forced the Hebrews to flee to Egypt where at
first they were well received, but then enslaved and lived a bitter existence in a strange land.
Then came the pivotal moment in Jewish history; the moment when they - as a people - took their
genesis or self awareness. A charismatic figure, Moses, claimed to have talked to a God named
Yahweh, and began to teach a monotheism in which Yahweh was the only, one supreme God. Moses
taught that Yahweh expected his chosen people, the Hebrews, to worship him alone and demanded that
they observe high moral and ethical standards. Thus Yahweh strengthened the Covenant (which is both a
promise and binding agreement) originally made with Abraham.
The core of the Covenant or the Law is found in Exodus 19: Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob,
and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on
eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep
my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. Thus the Israelites or the Children
of the Hebrews considered themselves God’s Chosen People.
Under Moses, the Children of the Hebrews watched as Yahweh indeed humbled the Egyptians and they
won their freedom; they migrated to Palestine and eventually set up a kingdom. Their two greatest kings
were David (1,000 to 970) and Solomon (970 to 930) who built Jerusalem into a great city and used
Iron technology to dominate the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean. After the death of Solomon,
however, the kingdom split in two and decline sets in. In 722, the Assyrians conquered the northern
kingdom, called the Kingdom of Israel and in 586, the Chaldeans (or Neo-Babylonians) destroyed the
southern kingdom or the Kingdom of Judah. Both events marked the beginning of the Diaspora or
scattering of the Jews.
When the Chaldeans destroyed Jerusalem (even leveling Solomon’s Temple), they carried off a large
part of Jerusalem’s population (mostly the elites and artisans) to Babylon in what has come to be called
the Babylonian Captivity. When the Persian king and founder of the Persian Empire, Cyrus the Great,
conquered the Chaldeans, he allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem. Most (but not all returned) and
rebuilt their state under Persian authority while the northern kingdom of Israel never recovered except
for a few Samaritan communities.
After the Persians, the Jews were dominated by Hellenistic Greeks and the Romans and even had some
limited periods of independence. But it is important to understand that some Jews remained in Babylon
and other Jewish communities sprang up around the Near East and Eastern Mediterranean, especially the
great Jewish community in Alexandria, Egypt. Finally, in CE 66, the Jews in Palestine rebelled against
the Romans who, like the Babylonians, destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and scattered the Jews
around the Mediterranean and Near East.
Between the tenth and second centuries BCE, the Hebrews compiled their holy scriptures, a body of
writings, inspired by Yahweh, which laid down Yahweh’s laws, outlined his role in creating the world,
and guidance in human affairs. There was the Torah or first five books of the Jewish – Christian Bible:
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. There were also historical and prophetic books.
- 14 -
The Jews were the first people in the world to believe that freedom meant the responsibility to make
correct moral choices. They believed that disobedience to Yahweh’s laws brought consequences and
linked political disasters with widespread disobedience to the laws of the Mosaic Covenant. It is
important to understand that the Jews believed that men and women were made in God’s image and this
produced a strong sense of societal ethics in which the rich and strong were expected to help and protect
the poor and the weak. This eventually became the basis of the Western idea of equality before the law,
which foreshadowed Aristotle’s and the Roman’s notion of the rule of law or the idea that those in
charge of government are obliged to run government on behalf of the many and not for just the few.
Thus the Jews, along with the Greeks and the Romans, laid the foundations of Western
Civilization (the culture in which we live) and their most lasting contribution to that civilization
was their unbending, uncompromising ethical-monotheism upon which Christians and Muslims
would later build.
The Phoenicians
The Phoenicians were located on the Mediterranean in what is modern Lebanon and were probably
related to the Canaanites, the ancient foes of the Jews. They were a seafaring people and concentrated on
shipbuilding and trading. They established colonies and traded all over the Mediterranean. They were
the founders of Carthage, the great enemy of Rome, but their greatest contribution was that of
Alphabetic Writing, which they invented around 1500 BCE. Phoenician scribes simplified
Mesopotamia’s cuneiform writing by devising twenty-two symbols representing consonants. Vowels
would be added later. This simplification was picked up by the Greeks and many other cultures as
writing spread from south-central Asia to all parts of Asia and Europe and ultimately throughout the
world.
The Land of Nubia (Another Gift of the Nile)
Egypt had a powerful cultural influence on Nubia, an agricultural state south of Egypt in what is now
the northern Sudan. The Nubians also took advantage of the “Gift of the Nile,” though there was not as
much land available for cultivation. The Nubians managed trade between Egypt and Sub Saharan
Africa: gold, ivory, ebony, gems, slaves and aromatic spices in return for Egyptian cloth and
manufactured goods. Egyptian influence was very strong, especially before the decline of the New
Kingdom.
The Nubians sent their sons to be educated in Egypt and they adopted many customs of Egyptian culture
including temple and pyramid design and functions, Egyptian religions and gods, and hieroglyphic
writing. Nevertheless, the Nubians did not become copies of Egyptian culture. They kept their own
customs as well. Art and religion was particularly syncretic. (Look at page 53 (81 in the new book) in
the text; the gold ring with and Egyptian looking god who is not Egyptian.)
The Nubians called their kingdom Kush. After 1,000 BCE, they began to expand at Egyptian expense.
From 750 to 664 they conquered and ruled Egypt until the Assyrians drove them back into Kush.
Thereafter Kush developed much more independently. They built a new capital at Meroë and flourished
into the fourth century BCE, when they came under Hellenistic domination. During this time, they
abandoned Egyptian Hieroglyphics and invented an alphabetic script. The Nubians produced a large
amount of iron weapons and tools and probably passed on the art of iron production to Sub Saharan
Africa.
- 15 -
The Aegean World
The Aegean World means emerging Greek Civilization and it is divided into two subcultures, both of
which are part of the Bronze Age: the Minoan centered on the island of Crete and the Mycenaean
centered in central and southern Greece. Minoan Civilization dates to at least 2600 BCE. We know
very little about them and what we do know is mostly archeological. The Greeks remembered them in
mythology (like the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur) and Homer speaks of their tribal divisions. We
think they were Mediterranean stock (medium height, dark eyes and hair) and we know that they built a
flourishing civilization about 2000 BCE. Their society, centered at the capital at Knossos, was
hierarchical (the classification of a group of people according to ability or to economic, social, or
professional standing) and seems to have been organized by clans which specialized in farming or
commerce. We know that they traded all over the Eastern Mediterranean. Their main deity was a mother
goddess who was worshipped in conjunction with a male fertility god in the form of a bull. This
prominence of female types may well be significant in the later development of Greek culture.
At any rate, both are seen in their art, which, although influenced by Egypt and Phoenicia, shows bull
dancing as well as common people and nature designs of flows and sea animals. Around 1700 their
society was shaken by natural disasters (volcanoes and earthquakes) but between 1600 and 1450 they
rebounded and reached their zenith, followed by decline and domination by Mycenaean invaders. They
were among the first to develop the fresco and they had flush toilets. Their original script was
hieroglyphic in nature but developed into an alphabetic script called Linear A, which has never been
deciphered. Whether they are the first Greeks or not is still a subject of speculation among scholars.
Between 2000 and 1500 BCE, the Mycenaean (or Achaean) Greeks began their migration-invasion of
the Balkan Peninsula and Greece. They were Indo European, tall and warlike, fair skinned and blond/red
haired, blue and green eyed. They built massive stone forts and palaces in Greece. By 1600 they were
trading with the Minoans but after 1450 they conquered the Minoans and imposed their culture. Their
writing was called Linear B and it has been deciphered and is Greek. They dominated Greece and the
Eastern Mediterranean and were the Greeks of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Their warlike values
reflected their nomadic heritage and paralleled the Aryans of India.
However, around 1100 BCE, a new wave of Greek invaders, called Dorians, even more warlike than the
Mycenaeans, overwhelmed all before them and threw Greece into a period called the Dark Ages. Out of
these disrupted times a new culture is formed which we have come to call Classical Greece.
G: Oceania, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas
We have made mention of the Austronesians who took agriculture out into the Pacific Ocean Basin, the
Olmecs who become the mother Civilizations of Meso-America and the peoples of Sub Saharan Africa.
Along with the Andean cultures of South America, South East Asian cultures and North American
cultures, it is enough in this introductory chapter to know these peoples are no less important but are
studies later because they begin to move toward complex cultures later in the historic era. It is important
to remember that they are no less important in the human presence on our planet. We shall in turn study
them all.
- 16 -