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Unformatted text preview: The First Civilizations of the Old World Initial Observation
Three of the primary centers of civilization (Mesopotamia, the Nile, and Indus Valleys) all emerged within a couple of centuries of each other and apparently were in contact. Urbanization in Mesopotamia
• The word “Mesopotamia” means [land] between the rivers (Tigris and Euphrates). • Between about 6000 and 5000, hill-farmers settled in the upper valley. • Evidence for simple irrigation techniques dates to after 5500. • Settlement of the lower valley began after about 5000. • Between about 3500 and 3100, towns became cities. Classic Theory of the Origins of Writing
• When writing fully emerged in Mesopotamia, scribes wrote by pressing a wedge-shaped stylus into a soft-clay tablet. This is called “cuneiform” (wedge-shaped) writing. The evolution of this system was thought to have followed these stages: Pictographic: iconic symbols used to express objects. Ideographic: same symbols used to express ideas. Phonetic (a.k.a., the rebus principle): by the end of 4th millennium, cuneiform writing had become phonetic, at least to the extent that the rebus principle was being employed to express complex abstract ideas, such as the concept of treaty being signified by a pictograph of a “tree” and “tea” vocalized phonetically. • • • Origins of Writing in Mesopotamia
• Denise Schmandt-Besserat has demonstrated that clay tokens in 16 main types (cones, spheres, disks, cylinders, oviods, rectangles, triangles, etc) were in use in Mesopotamia and adjacent regions from as early as 9000 BCE. Altogether, there are about than 7000 tokens that have been catalogued in museum collections. Up until about 4400 the tokens were plain; afterwards they become more complex. • Origins of Writing (continued)
• These tokens indicated specific goods, a sheep, or jar of oil, or measures of grain. In other words they were counting devices. • About 3350, rather than being stored in jars, they were enclosed in clay envelopes (cylindrical or spherical). These envelopes began to be stamped with two-dimensional representations of the tokens inside. About 200 of these envelopes, some 80 still intact, and about 240 incised tablets have been found. Origins of Writing (continued)
• Soon, the tokens were dispensed with and only the two-dimensional representations of the tokens were incised on clay tablets. The incisions were soon replaced by impressions in soft clay made with a stylus: cuneiform writing had emerged. Origins of Writing (concluded)
• Eventually, most early systems of writing included all three types: pictographic, ideographic and phonetic, with the phonetic element predominating. • Such systems generally contain between 70 and 200 different signs. • This type of system is frequently labeled “syllabic.” Sumerians
• During these centuries (3500-3100), rudimentary writing, metal working and monumental architecture appear. • By the time that there are written records, the people in lower Mesopotamia called their land Sumer. We know them as the Sumerians. Chronology of Early Mesopotamian Cultures
• Sumerian: 3100-2350. About 2350, lower Mesopotamia was invaded by the Semitic-speaking Akkadians. Akkadian: The high-point of this phase began about 2,200, with a new dynasty, proclaiming itself: “the kings of Sumer and Akkad” (the Third Dynasty of Ur). 1000s of clay tablets survive from the Ur III period. After about 2000, it collapsed due to pressure from the Amorites and Elamites. Amorites: built Babylon. Hammurabi (1792-1750) was Babylon’s most famous ruler. Dynasty ended ca. 1595. Kassites (in lower Mesopotamia) and the Mittanians and Hurrians (to the north) followed the Amorites. • • • Ebla
• Another major site was the Syrian city of Ebla. • About 18,000 cuneiform tablets (2000 complete and 6000 large fragments) have been found (compared to only some 5000 for the rest of western Asia). • The period covered by the archive seems to be about 40 years. • The entire inhabited area of the city covered about 140 acres. Uncertainties in Dating
• Most dates for early historical periods come from the synchronization of astronomical observations with written evidence and comparisons to ceramic and C-14 dating. • Uncertainties about Mesopotamian records of the conjunctions of Venus (every 275 years, with shorter cycles of 64 years and 56 years), for example, give us four dates (1651, 1595, 1531, 1499) for the Hittite sacking of Babylon. • Egyptologists use king lists based on fragments of the work of priest Mantheo (3rd century BCE), and the Sothic calendar, which began with the helical (dawn) rising of the star Sirius (Sothis in Greek). We know that a Sothic cycle was about 1,460 years in duration and that one began in 139 CE; thus, the previous one began in about 1320 BCE. • But we don’t know if the observations were made in Thebes or Elephantine. Thus, the accession of Rameses II, for example, could have been in 1304, 1290, 1279 or 1274. • Early Egypt Narmer Palette
According to Mantheo, the first king who united upper and lower Egypt was Menes. There is, however, no convincing evidence that a king named Menes ever existed. Rather he seems to be an ideal king, the sort that is common in many early “histories.” Some modern scholars suggest that Narmer may have been a partial model for Menes. Egyptian Chronology
• • • Old Kingdom – 2700 to 2200 (3rd-6th dynasties), pyramid age (Snofru & Cheops were 4th dynasty). First intermediate – 2200 to 2040 (7th -10th). Middle Kingdom – 2040 to 1674 (11th-14th). • Memphis and Thebes. • Separate centers of power before end of period. Second intermediate – 1674 to 1553 (14th-17th). • 15th & 16th dynasties were Hyksos dynasties. New Kingdom – 1552 to 1069 (18th-20th). • Ahmose was the first Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. • • Early Indic Civilization
• The early civilization of the Indus valley is today referred to as Harappan. It had been completely forgotten until the 192Os. • As early as about 4000, wheel-made pottery, cotton and diversified animal husbandry existed. • The earliest known phases of this civilization date to between 3500 and 2800 BCE. The urban phase at Harappa began about 2800. The period between 2800 and 2600 was critical to the full emergence of Harappan society. • In other words, Harappan civilization was contemporary with Egypt and Mesopotamia. In terms of population, it may well have been the largest. Harappan Civilization
• The two most important settlements were apparently: Mohenjo-Daro (about 300 miles from the coast) and Harappa (about 400 miles further upstream). • Both seem to have had a population of about 35,000 or more. Harappa possibly 50,000 at some periods. Mohenjo-Daro was almost a square mile in extent (about 618 acres). • Several other large sites are also known, a couple only discovered within the last 20 years. • A script of about 270 pictographs has been found, but it has not been deciphered and seems unrelated to any other known system of writing • Harappan civilization collapsed about 1700 BCE or perhaps a bit later. Neolithic Revolution in Early China Early China
• There is evidence of three distinct Neolithic cultures dating to the sixth millennium BCE. • Highland plain of the Yellow River valley (millet, hemp and mulberry). • Valleys of the lower Yangtze & Huai (rice). • Southeast coast & Taiwan (mostly a fishing economy). • Chinese civilization probably first emerged from the northern region (Yellow River valley). Chinese Bronze Age
• Chinese Bronze Age seems to have begun about 2000 BC. • Clear evidence has been found of the Shang dynasty (ca. 1750-1100), which, according to tradition, was the second of China’s ruling dynasties. • Shang rulers controlled only a small part of China (mostly the middle & lower Yellow River valley). • Based on military conquest, with a strictly stratified society of warriors, craftsmen and farmers. The farming population owed labor dues and were liable for military service. • Possessing chariots and elaborate bronze-working skills, and with a sophisticated system of writing, Shang China was a typical Bronze Age state. ...
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This note was uploaded on 10/07/2010 for the course HIS 1000 taught by Professor Anderson during the Winter '10 term at Wayne State University.
- Winter '10