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Governance                  1,000 AD
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

Africa

  Ife was the root city in a complex of city-states all along the west coast of Africa. The Akan of Ghana, Benin, the Kingdom of Dahomey, all stem from the sacred city of Ife. By reaching into the heart of the West African tin country, suddenly I found myself in the middle of a series of complex civilizations with elaborate ceremonial and courtly rituals, complex but very similar pantheons--and sacrificial rites that echoed the worlds of both Carthage and the Aztecs. (120)

Ife and, later, Benin, the Kingdom of Dahomey, the world of the Ashanti, all had had their origins in the very secretive, stealthy world of Carthaginian metal exploration and exploitation. (120)

Southwest Asia

 

Egypt

 Later, the Romans, Arabs, and British would complete the conquest of Egypt, submerging almost entirely this distinctive civilization that was for so many years the light of the ancient world. Not until AD 1952 was Egypt again ruled by Egyptians. (47)

Indus Valley

 

China

 

Europe

 Until about the seventh millennium BC, "Barbarian Europe"--the great forests, grasslands, and mountain ranges beyond the Aegean Sea and extending north to Britain, Scandinavia, and Russia, was inhabited only by hunters, and foragers. In succeeding millennia, Europeans developed complex forms of subsistence and adaptation, and a rich cultural repertoire of technology and social systems, but throughout prehistory and well into the early centuries of the first millennium AD, European cultures were not the equal of those of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and other areas in most of the characteristics of cultural "complexity". (50)

540 AD: Collapse of the traditional Roman Empire, which ended the ancient world and set off the Dark Ages. (58)

Strengthening its psychological hold on human consciousness through political, economic, and military force derived from its status in the waning Empire, Roman Christianity would become a monolithic power in its own right. For instance, Emperor Valentinian III, from Constantinople in 455 AD, decreed all Western Bishops must submit to the jurisdiction of the Pope. This extensive hierarchy would 10 years later continue in the Holy Roman Empire (962 AD) that would serve the joint purposes of the economic and military elite. The Roman Church's creation and control of universities would limit education to dogma for hundreds of years. Its long hegemony forced would-be scientists underground. (113)

From about 400 AD until 800 AD, Western civilization was truly in the Dark Ages of medieval society. The light of universal knowledge only glimmered in scattered redoubts of scholars and scientists hiding from the scrutiny of the Church. With the Carolingian Renaissance of the ninth century, flashes of perennial wisdom and new creative thought appeared in literature, philosophy, and art. With expanding economic freedom, prosperity increased in certain locales. This upward spiraling of human creativity, lasting until the twelfth century, would be cut short by the age of Crusades (1095 to 1281 AD) and Inquisitions. (113)

...the arrival of bubonic plague in AD 542 may have killed as much as a third to half of the population. It then returned with terrifying regularity, every 15 years or so, to most of the major cities. By the end of the sixth century the scale of depopulation was profound, with many cities that had survived since antiquity ceasing to exist. By the mid-eighth century the population of Constantinople had sunk to between 25,000 and 50,000 from a figure of some ten times this at the beginning of the sixth century. Economic activity throughout much of the Mediterranean world virtually ceased and the region slipped back into a form of rural convalescence, with life continuing more easily in the countryside where contagious diseases exerted a less deadly sway. (145)

South America

 At about AD 600, the many rival “states” of Andean South America began to give way to several larger competing political systems, one centered at Wari in the Manteco Basin, another at Tiwanaku, at the southern end of Lake Titicaca, and a third in the Moche-Chimu area. (52)

Wari existed as a political system for only a century or two, but at its high point it carried out political and economic activities over most of the coast and highlands between Cajamarca in the north and Sicuani in the south. The city of Wari expanded to an impressive ten square kilometers, making it one of the largest residential sites in the ancient New World.

It is probably significant that some of ancient Peru’s, major roadways may have been constructed during this period, for such roads would have been very important in facilitating the exchange of goods and services over an area as large as the one apparently administered from Wari.

With the collapse of the Wari and Tiwanaku political systems between AD 800 and AD 1000, at least seven different areas in Andean South America became power centers, the best known and most developed of which was the Chimu state centered in the Moche Valley on the northern coast. A major center of the Chimu political system was the beautiful city of Chan-Chan a planned settlement covering nearly eleven square kilometers--one of the largest pre-Columbian cities in the New World. It was divided into ten rectangular sectors, each containing houses, terraces, reservoirs, parks, roads, and public buildings. By the time Chan-Chan was built, Andean societies were rigidly stratified…(52)

\Chimu society seems to have been rigidly stratified according to wealth and prestige, and the extension of political and economic control appears to have been based on a highly efficient army.

Perhaps the most significant development in Andean South America during this period (AD 1OOO-AD 1476) was the multiplication of urban centers. Much of southern Peru remained largely rural, but in the northern half of the country some of the greatest cities of the pre-conquest period were built. (52)

The people of the empire were organized in a complex way according to a decimal system in which there were administrators for every unit of taxpayer from 10 to 10,000. Most people were members of large kin groups, called ayllu; marriages were between members of the same a ayllu. The ayllu were usually economically self-sufficient units that held land in common and their members were bound together by complex patterns of reciprocal obligations, such as requiring members to work in each other’s space when one was absent and to support widows and the infirm. Farmers worked a certain amount of time on state-owned lots, while craftsmen and specialists such as runners, weavers, and goldsmiths contributed according to their particular talents. (52)

Gold, fabrics, and other luxury goods were collected from around the empire for distribution among the elites. Women, too, were treated as commodities. Governnment agents visited each village periodically and took selected girls of about age ten back to provincial capitals where they were taught spinning, weaving, and cooking. They were then apportioned out as wives for the emperor and the nobles. (52)

The Inka Empire both created and was created by its system of roads. Most villages were largely self-sufficient, but the flow of goods and information and most important, armies required to create the empire were dependent on the road system, comprising an overall network of about 40,000 kilometers of paved roads. Road beds were excavated through hillsides, swamps were crossed by drained causeways, walls were built along roadways to protect the traveler from the fierce gales of the uplands, and wide rivers and ravines were crossed by suspension bridges made of woven vines hung from stone towers. All along the roads were storehouses and administrative outposts, and runners stationed about a kilometer apart were reputed to carry messages over distances as great as 2,400 kilometers in just five days. (52)

Archaeologists believe that the civilization that built Tiahuanaco collapsed sometime between 800 AD and 1000 AD and that the city and immediate area were virtually abandoned. If this is true, it is an odd coincidence that the Mayan civilization also collapsed in this same time period. It appears that the populations of both civilizations dispersed and never reorganized. Large-scale monument building and agriculture were never reactivated. (69)

The tradition continues with European kings, for kingship seems to have been an institution specifically created by sun-worshippers, where everything is still conceded to royal blood, rather than to nationality; as if these special families were in very fact different from ordinary men, as, six thousand years ago, had been almost true. In the days of Cortes and Pizarro, Spanish ships did not carry the picture of Christ crucified or the letters INRI or even the cross of Christ, they carried painted almost the height and breadth of their sails, blood-red, the Maltese cross, the great sun-symbol with which in the fourth millennium the gentle culture-heroes had first arrived in America. Small wonder Montezuma was confused. (135)

1200 AD Rise of Incas the ancient Peruvian ruling class. (135)

Mesoamerica

 By the time Teotihuacan reached its maximum size, it had apparently depopulated much of the rest of the Valley of Mexico: only one other major settlement appears in the Valley at about AD 500, and it is but a small fraction of the size of Teotiihuacan. In fact, the abandonment of rural sites correlates so closely with Teotihuacan's growth that it appears likely that populations were either drawn or coerced directly into the city…(51)

Sometime before AD 600, Teotihuacan's size and influence began to decline. As the city shrank in population, new centers and settlements appeared throughout the Valley of Mexico, particularly on its edges. Significantly, after AD 600 Teotihuacan styles in pottery, architecture and other artifacts disappeared from the rest of Mesoamerica. It is as if a complicated exchange network had been beheaded, and local cultures began developing their own distinct traditions. (51)

There is some evidence that Teotihuacan was burned down at about AD 650, perhaps intentionally, and its population dispersed to the countryside. Whatever malignant conjunction of wars, fires, droughts, and other factors that destroyed it, Teotihuacan was one of the first great states of the New World. (51)

Computer simulations have been used to suggest that as many as 77,000 people may have lived in Tikal's immediate environs at its peak, and probably 300,000 or more people lived in the entire 965 square miles that this center dominated. (51)

Great-Jaguar-Paw and his warriors not only physically killed the Uaxactun elites, the killed this community spiritually, cutting off the people from the guidance and protection of their ancestors and gods. (51)

The Aztecs were organized into a highly stratified class system headed by a divine king. Beneath the king were the nobles, the pillitin, all of whom belonged to the royal house, while the great mass of the populace were commoners who were organized in large clans, called calpulli (“big house”). The calpulli were the basic units of Aztec society. Each was composed of several lineages, totaling several hundred people, one of whom was designated the calpule or leader. Members of a calpulli usually lived in the same village or ward, fought together as a unit if drafted for war, held and worked land in common, paid taxes as a unit, and worshipped at the shrine maintained by the calpulli. The leaders of the calpulli were the direct link between the imperial government and the people. There was also a class of professional merchants called pochteca. (51)

The capulli differed from one another in social rank. There was some social mobility for individuals--usually by virtue of extraordinary service to the state m warfare, trade, or religion. At the bottom of the social scale were the landless peasants and slaves, who worked the fields, performed other menial tasks, and were sacrificed in enormous numbers to various gods. (51)

Archaeologists believe that the civilization that built Tiahuanaco collapsed sometime between 800 AD and 1000 AD and that the city and immediate area were virtually abandoned. If this is true, it is an odd coincidence that the Mayan civilization also collapsed in this same time period. It appears that the populations of both civilizations dispersed and never reorganized. Large-scale monument building and agriculture were never reactivated. (69)

A frieze, more than nine feet high and 30 feet long, features a three-dimensional figure of a Maya ruler, ancestor gods, shells, earth monsters and dancing figures. These are images that in the Maya worldview symbolically linked Maya sovereigns with supernatural authority. Researchers determined that the frieze was sculpted in the ninth century, the very time other, more dominant cities like Tikal, Seibal, Dos Pilas and Caracol were declining or had already been abandoned. At that time, Xunantunich was a thriving city of at least 10,000 inhabitants. (104)

1100 AD Disappearance of Toltecs. (135)

1200 Rise of Aztecs, the barbarian tribe from outside the old empire. (135)

Another sudden collapse is that of the classical Mayan culture. This is one of the great mysteries of prehistoric Mesoamerica. Having emerged around 1500 BC this civilisation thrived from around AD 250. It is renowned for its monumental constructions and reached a pinnacle in the eighth century. By this time the population density in the Mayan lowlands (which extend over modern-day Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and Mexico) was far higher than current levels. It sustained a sophisticated society that built magnificent buildings and other edifices. But early in the ninth century the civilisation entered a cataclysmic period. The monumental construction and detailed records came to an abrupt end at one centre after another. This decline tallies closely with evidence of extreme drought in the region that comes from analysis of local lake deposits and from ocean sediment cores from the Cariaco Basin off the coast of Venzuela. (145)

During the 9th century AD, some kind of radical natural change brought the Mayan 'Classical' period to an end, an event marked by the sudden abandonment of their city states in Guatemala and the Yucatan lowlands. During the period of the collapse of their civilization, only three sites recorded the katun-ending date of 889 AD (in Mayan numerology, 10.3.0.0.0), and that the final Long Count date to be recorded was the katun-ending date 20 years later in 909 AD, (1004.0.0.0) which was cut into a piece of jade. (150)

North America  

Between about 800 BC and AD 800, population densities in many parts of eastern North America increased sharply, thousands of gigantic earthworks were constructed, inter-regional trade expanded, and large villages were built. This era of change, usually referred to as the Woodland Period, is associated with two major cultural traditions: the Adena (centered in Ohio, and extending into Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia), and the Hopewell (centered in southern Ohio but extending widely over much of eastern North America. Both are defined on the basis of styles of pottery, engraved stone tablets, textiles, and worked bone and copper. Adena mound-building and artifact styles seem concentrated in the interval between about 500 BC and A. 700. Many of the mounds were mortuary centers in which one or more corpses were placed in log tombs or clay pits in communal burials, sometimes with beautiful stone tools and other goods, and then covered with earth. (53)

The Hopewell Culture dominated parts of the Middle West from about 200 BC to AD 750. The Ohio Hopewell was centered in southern Ohio, and the Havana Hopewell dominated the central and lower Illinois River Valley, but Hopewell religious traditions were practiced as far north as Wisconsin, south into Louisiana, and east into New York.

While grave goods are not usually profuse in Adena mounds, Hopewell tombs often contain finely worked copper, pipestone, mica, obsidian, meteoric iron, shell, tortoise shell, shark and alligator teeth, bear teeth, ceramics, and other commodities; there is also evidence of the ultimate grave good--sacrificed humans. Hopewell settlements and mounds increased in size and number in the centuries before about AD 400, and major earthworks were often built near the burial mounds.

…one of the many puzzling things about these mound complexes is that in many areas they do not seem to have any associated domestic houses.

…these societies seem to have been less complexly organized than, for example, Mesoamerican cities like Teotihuacan. Most of the Hopewell and Adena communities were small sedentary groups of hunter-collectors who built the burial mounds and ceremonial complexes for reasons that may fundamentally have had to do with distributing resources. Whereas Archaic hunters and gatherers met their needs by following seasonal rounds and exploiting a diversity of resources, Hopewell communities probably accomplished the same thing by exchanging products among themselves. Like the Adena mounds, however, these constructions could have also been territorial markers. (53)

From about AD 600 to about 1650, the agricultural way of life spread over much of eastern North America, and in the North American East the Mississippian culture appeared--the high point of cultural evolution in aboriginal North America, particularly in terms of geographical extent of influence, ceremonialism, public works, technology, population density, and social stratification. (53)

Stoltman has listed some characteristics that define Mississippian culture, including: apparent complex social organization--perhaps with chiefs and elites who could expropriate great amounts of societal wealth and power; a theocratic social organization, with elites having both religious and political power; towns in which one hundred or, in some cases, one thousand or more people lived year-round, often behind fortifications; monumental architecture, including mounds and tombs; some occupational specialization in farming, trading, ritual, and administration; mortuary cults involving certain patterns of burying the dead with "status goods" under earthen mounds...(53)

The beginnings of a class-based society in which elites could control community wealth is evident at Cahokia. One adult male was buried with 20,000 shell beads, 800 arrowheads, and sheets of mica and copper. In addition, there were many burials, including 4 mutilated men and 118 women, many of whom appear to have been ritually strangled; we can only surmise that, like their Chinese, Mesopotamian, Mesoamerican, and other counterparts, these ritual killings and entombments were attempts to provide elites in death with the same personal services they enjoyed in this life. (53)

Cahokia is an impressive site, but it was probably not functionally similar to Teotihuacan or similar cities in prehistoric complex societies, at least in the degree of occupational specialization or the volumes and diversity of products produced, the class stratification of the society, or the overall productivity of the economy.

At another great Mississippian site--Moundville, Alabama--a central earthen mound was the focus of a settlement in which elaborate burials, fortifications, and other structures were found. The environment simply does not permit or allow agricultural intensification on the scale possible in the tropical Olmec river basins, the Nile Valley, and other areas of advanced complexity. (53)

These early colonists described intensely stratified societies where the elites were able to draw almost without limit on the resources of the communities. Ethnographic accounts of Mississippian communities as they existed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries--long after the culmination of Mississippian culture--describe an intensely class-conscious society in which nobles and warriors alternately exploited and abused the "stinkards," commoners and slaves who made up most of these societies. The upper classes were slavishly obeyed and respected. They frequently married the lower classes, but the aristocrat could divorce or kill the lower-ranking spouse, given even minor cause. In AD 1720 the French explorer Le Page du Pratz witnessed the funeral of "Great Sun," a ruler of the Natchez Mississippian people. On the occasion of his death, Great Sun's wives, servants, and relatives were drugged and then clubbed to death and buried with him. (53)

Although the largest irrigation systems were apparently built sometime after AD 800, by about AD 300 there were already indications of minor increases in the complexity of Hohokam cultures. The Hohokam ball courts were east-west oriented oval depressions about sixty meters long, with 4.5- to 6-meter-high sloping earth embankments on a side. Apparently the objective of the game, played by two opposing teams, was to try to get a rubber ball (several of which have been found in the Southwest) through a goal, probably not by throwing or batting it, but by using knees, elbows, or torso. (53)

Generally, however, there is little evidence in subsistence practices, settlements, or mortuary ceremonies of evolving rank and wealth differences. Most of the Hoohokam lived in small square pit houses roofed with clay and grass domes supported by a wooden pole framework. Early dwellings appear large enough for several families, but single-family residences became more popular in later periods. (53)

By about 1100 AD, prosperous enclaves were established at Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, and elsewhere, and in some ways these communities represent the high point of Southwestern culture. There were twelve large towns along Chaco Canyon, of which Pueblo Bonito was the largest, with over eight hundred rooms and perhaps twelve hundred people. (53)

…Chaco Canyon was part of a large organized system that included a unified irrigation system and about 600 kilometers of roads which linked scores of small communities and facilitated trade in ceramics, turquoise, food, and other commodities.

By about AD 1150, most of the known cliff cities in the Four Corners area had been established, all of very similar construction. Settlements grew by simple accretion: more rooms were added as needed. The remote location of the cliff towns may have had to do with defensive considerations, although the identity of any possible enemies is unknown.

As beautiful as many late Anasazi settlements were, they do not appear to have been the work of a highly complex society. The buildings, while superbly adapted to their environment, are quite crudely constructed. There may have been minor occupational specialization in ceramic manufacture, weaving, and turquoise carving, but most if not all of the people were subsistence farmers. Nor is any evidence of differential rank expressed in domestic architecture or in grave goods. Even the irrigation system, while intricate and efficient, was probably administered through simple kinship systems. (53)

Other

 The great monuments of Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam are all products of the late first and second millennia AD, and are intertwined with Chinese and Indian history. (50)