By Natural Philosopher Mike Prestwood

Hist 2: Ancient History

World history from about 9700 BCE to 500 CE.

History, sliced into time periods, is yet another lens into humanity’s knowledge. These insights are the backbone to Mike‘s articles and his longer effort books. They are part of his lifelong commitment to study and represent his areas of focus. While they are not complete, they are useful.

The World History Timeline
Switch To: Prehistory | Ancient History | Medieval | Post-Medieval 

The Clovis Culture
The Clovis Culture
circa 13000 BCE

In what is now the United States, the Clovis culture, named after distinctive stone tools found near Clovis, New Mexico, represents one of the earliest known sophisticated societies in the Americas. Dating back to around 13,000 BCE, the Clovis people are believed to be among the first inhabitants of the continent, crossing the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia into Alaska during the last Ice Age. Their technology, characterized by finely crafted spear points, indicates advanced hunting strategies and social organization. The Clovis culture played a crucial role in the peopling of the Americas, setting the stage for thousands of years of diverse indigenous civilizations.

Neolithic Revolution
Trevethy Quoit a Portal Dolmen in Cornwall
9,700 BCE
Start of "our" Holocene geological epoch
468 Generations Ago (from 2020 CE)

The Neolithic Revolution is the earliest known Agricultural Revolution. It is very likely that humans practiced forms of agriculture earlier. How much earlier? Well, without evidence, we are guessing. For convenience, anthropologists label humans as hunter-gatherers prior to the Neolithic Revolution. The fact is that the current theory states that agriculture started magically all around the world circa 9,700 BCE. I think it is much more likely this is simply the earliest farming we have yet to discover and will likely push this date back further and further over time.

The Neolithic revolution is the belief in a wide-scale transition of many human cultures during the Neolithic period from a lifestyle of hunting and gathering to one of agriculture and settlement, making an increasingly large population possible. These settled communities permitted humans to observe and experiment with plants, learning how they grew and developed. This new knowledge led to the domestication of plants. A stable lifestyle led to more leisure time and more time to think about things which led to what we would call civilization today. Only the most sturdy of structures from this time period survived the test of time.

Jericho Founded
St Geaorge Monastery Desert
9000 BCE
360 Generations Ago

How old is Jericho? Jericho has been continuously inhabited since at least the 90th century BCE. That makes it at least 50 centuries older than 4000 BCE which is about the time the Bible indicates God created the Earth.

Neolithic China
Neolithic China
7000 BCE
7000-6001 BCE

These symbols which are radiocarbon dated to the 7th millennium BCE have similarities to the late 2nd millennium BCE oracle bone script. Put this writing in the MAYBE column. Scientists are still going through a process to verify this claim. If we can discover some intermediate links, yes, more missing links, we can firm up these symbols as early writing. They were discovered in 2003 on tortoise shells found in 24 Neolithic graves excavated in Jiahu, Henan province, northern China.

Sumerian Civilization
Sumerian Civilization
6500 BCE
2,000 Generations Ago

Human DNA today is the same as 50,000 BCE. There is no doubt there were many dozens and perhaps thousands of civilizations prior to the Sumer civilization, but Sumer is the earliest known, or at least the earliest well known. The Sumer civilization first established between 6500 and 4100 BCE. We know quite a bit about the Sumerians because they immortalized their writing in clay tablets which will be around long after all the paper books on Earth right now have deteriorated. Sadly, we know almost nothing about prior civilizations because very little evidence survived the test of time. The Sumerians spoke and wrote Sumer and starting several millennia into their civilization they started immortalizing their culture on clay. They had an advanced democracy with elected officials, religion, art, wheel, math, philosophy, and language. The Cuneiform script was in use until 100 CE.

Early Sumer Civilization
Early Sumer Civilization
6500 BCE
6500 through 1900 BCE

From 6500 to 4000 BCE, the Sumer civilization increased in social polarization. For example, central houses in the settlements became bigger. This early Sumer culture is characterized by large unwalled villages with multi-roomed rectangular mud-brick houses. The village featured public buildings including temples and centralized government. They had fine quality greenish colored pottery decorated with geometric designs in brown or black paint. Their known tools that survived the test of time included sickles made of hard fired clay, stone, and metal and the use of ploughs. Villages included craftspeople, potters, weavers and metalworkers, but the bulk of the population were farm workers.

The known Sumerian city-states written history goes back to before 2700 BCE, and starting about 2300 BCE the records are fairly complete.

Man Made Glass
blue green and red heart shaped stone
3500 BCE

The earliest known man made glass dates back to circa 3500 BCE and to Egypt and Eastern Mesopotamia. Discovery of glassblowing around 1st century BC was a major breakthrough in glass making.

Skara Brae Scottish Village
Skara Brae Scottish Village
3180 BCE
3180 to 2500 BCE

Skara Brae is a stone-built Neolithic settlement, located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of the largest island of Scotland. It consists of ten houses made of flagstones within earthen dams that provided support for the walls; the houses included stone hearths, beds, and cupboards. A primitive sewer system, with “toilets” and drains in each house which carried waste to the ocean using water to flush waste into a drain.

Beer, Ale
glass of beer, sausages and bread on the table
circa 3000 BCE
Sumerians; 3400–2900 BCE

The Ale of Progress: On the riverbanks of ancient Mesopotamia, Sumerians fermented grains into beer, a beverage derived from bread. It became a cornerstone of their civilization. It’s a drink for the gods, a nutritious staple, and perhaps the world’s first social lubricant.

Xia Dynasty (2070-1600 BCE)
Gyeongbokgung Palace, South Korea
2700 BCE
188 Generations Ago

The Xia Dynasty is the first documented government of ancient China. The first to adopt dynastic succession. In modern times, it was regarded as a myth created later by Chinese historians, but 20th-century excavations uncovered sites which corresponded to descriptions in earlier historians’ accounts. This fact is an important lesson on understanding how little survived the test of time. How much we will never know about the true progress of humans over our first 100,000 years. 

Switch To: Prehistory | Ancient History | Medieval | Post-Medieval 

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