Governance                  1,000 BC
Southwest Asia
Indus Valley
South America
North America


 Complex societies quickly followed the introduction of iron in west Africa, and first-millennium BC tombs in Nigeria and Senegal reflect great differences in wealth. At Igbo- Ukwu in Nigeria, one burial chamber contained cast-bronze objects and thousands of glass and carnelian beads. Arab accounts of these societies in the eighth through the eleventh centuries AD describe complex empires, with armies, kings, and massive craft industries. (50)

\The Phoenician inscription found in Brazil detailing how a party of Phoenicians was cast on the Brazilian coast "in the nineteenth year of Hiram" is very specific about having left from Ezion-Geber: …We embarked from Ezion-Geber into the Red Sea and voyaged with ten ships… So a definite Hiram-Ezion-Geber-Brazilian interconnection is established. They had begun working African mines but by chance were cast into another of the richest gold areas in the world--Northeast Brazil. The Brahmi inscriptions in Brazil brought the interchange up to at least 500 BC, and the time of Solomon-Hiram of Tyre stretches back to 1000 BC; so there's a 500-year period of trans-Atlantic crossings…at least! In fact, in trying to establish an interconnection between Brahmi, a script of Northern India, and Brazil, the logical vehicle of transmission would have been Alexander the Great's imperial communication-structure, which in the third century BC stretched from North India all the way to Egypt/Libya. So all likelihood was that the contact between the Red Sea/African gold trade and Brazil lasted about 700 years! (120)

814 BC Phoenician founding of Carthage. (135)

Southwest Asia

On the assumption that this was Ekron, archaeologists and other scholars examining the decorated pottery and evidence for advanced town planning concluded that contrary to the age-old slander, Philistine culture was no oxymoron. They could also see that this must have been one of the major industrial cities of the far-flung Neo-Assyrian Empire in the seventh century BC. That gave them important insights into how the Assyrians forged a new imperial ideology based on mercantile principles, creating what some scholars consider the first "world market." In fact, he said, this is the first time the name of a biblical city and a list of its kings has ever been found on a site where its historical context is clear. No other such monumental inscription has been found in Israel from the biblical period. Other scholars agreed. (95)

Dr. Gitin said the inscription had already confirmed the close link between Ekron and the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which in the late eighth century BC and most of the seventh century BC was the superpower of what was then considered the known world. Ekron was one of many vassal city-states in the empire and, as current excavations are revealing, must have been one of the largest industrial centers of any kind in the ancient Middle East in the seventh century BC. Other digging in the last 13 years has shown that Ekron in the seventh century BC grew rapidly from not much more than 10 acres to a city of 85 acres, complete with an elite quarter in the center and an industrial zone containing more than 100 olive-oil processing plants. In their quest for raw materials and manufactured goods, as well as new sources of silver for use as currency, the Assyrian kings created a new supranational system of political and economic power, leading to 70 years of widespread growth of urban centers, transforming cottage industries into mass production and encouraging specialization in manufacturing. Another of the Neo-Assyrian innovations, it seems, was the widespread use of silver as a currency to supplement and, in some cases, replace conventional modes of payment by goods and services. In Spain, new silver mines were opened to meet the increased currency demands. (95)

The Phoenicians were par excellence the carriers/transmitters of all Mediterranean culture. Open a Phoenician tomb, and you were liable to find it filled with Egyptian cartouches or Assyrian ivory figures. The Phoenicians were a conglomerate, synthetic culture; they took from everyone, incorporated everything into themselves, and out of the bits and scraps of other mythologies, other pantheons, architectures, technologies, they had created a strong, vital and bloody civilization that was distinctly their own. (120)

I thought of the Topheth in Carthage, the "most important building in Carthage." It was a shrine containing thousands of urns filled with the ashes and bones of mainly children. The Phoenicians were the great child-sacrificers. They had originally come from the Syro-Palestinian coastal area, the world of the Old Testament where the old gods were appeased only by blood-sacrifice. The general pattern of Phoenician activity centered around the exploration and then exploitation of the whole of black Africa and Spain, mainly to obtain metals. About 600 BC, the Phoenicians began a series of long voyages, circumnavigated Africa and, around 450 BC, pushed out into the Atlantic, went up the Spanish and French coast, and reached the British Isles--including Ireland. They were after British tin! (120)

900 BC Predominance of Assyria, the Iron Age land power. (135)

Digs in Greece, Turkey, Syria, and Egypt reveal a stunning story of upheaval, war, and widespread social breakdown. In the last years of the thirteenth century BC and the beginning of the twelfth, the entire ancient world went through a dramatic transformation, as a devastating crisis swept away the Bronze Age kingdoms and a new world began to emerge. This was one of the most dramatic and chaotic periods in history, with old empires falling and new forces rising to take their place. (143)

The other great empire of the region was centered in Anatolia. This was the mighty Hittite state, which was ruled from its capital, Hattusha, east of the modern Turkish capital of Ankara. The Hittites controlled Asia Minor and northern Syria. They reached remarkable heights in architecture, literature, and warfare. The immense city of Hattusha, with its stupendous fortifications and rock-cut temple, gives modern visitors a sense of the Hittites' greatness. (143)

In contrast to the culture of the Canaanite cities and villages in the lowlands, the highland villages contained no public buildings, palaces, storehouses, or temples. Signs of any sophisticated kind of record keeping, such as writing, seals, and seal impressions, are almost completely absent. There are almost no luxury items: no imported pottery and almost no jewelry. Indeed, the village houses were all quite similar in size, suggesting that wealth was distributed quite evenly among the families. The houses were built of unworked fieldstones, with rough stone pillars propped up to provide support for the roof or upper story. The average building, around six hundred square feet in size, presumably housed four to five people - the size of a nuclear family. In many cases, stone-lined pits for storage of grain were dug between the houses. These silos, and a large number of sickle blades and grinding stones found in every house, indicate that grain growing was one of the villagers' main concerns. Yet herding was still important; fenced courtyards near the houses were apparently used for keeping animals secure at night. (143)

...there is no evidence of significant social stratification in these villages, no sign of administrative buildings for officials, large residences of dignitaries, or the specialized products of highly skilled artisans. The early Israelites appeared around 1200 BC, as herders and farmers in the hills. Their culture was a simple one of subsistence. Many of the early Isrealites were thus apparently nomads who gradually became farmers. The highlands offer excellent terrain for olive and vine growing - the most profitable sectors of the traditional Middle Eastern economy. In all three periods of extensive highland settlement, surplus wine and olive oil seem to have been sent to the lowlands and even exported beyond the borders of Canaan, especially to Egypt. (143)

The process that we describe here is, in fact, the opposite of what we have in the Bible: the emergence of early Israel was an outcome of the collapse of the Canaanite culture, not its cause. And most of the Israelites did not come from outside Canaan - they emerged from within it. There was no mass Exodus from Egypt. There was no violent conquest of Canaan. Most of the people who formed early Israel were local people - the same people whom we see in the highlands throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages. The early Israelites were - irony of ironies - themselves originally Canaanites! (143)

In fact, Israel was well on the way to fully developed statehood within a few decades of the presumed end of the united monarchy, around 900 BC. By fully developed we mean a territory governed by bureaucratic machinery, which is manifested in social stratification as seen in the distribution of luxury items, large building projects, prospering economic activity including trade with neighboring regions, and a fully developed settlement system. (143)

The prosperity and prominence that the kingdom of Israel attained during the reign of Jeroboam II offered great wealth to the Israelite aristocracy. Although the rather chaotic digging methods of the early twentieth century excavations of Samaria do not permit a detailed analysis of the buildings and renovations of the royal city in the early eighth century, two extremely interesting sets of small finds offer at least a glimpse of the opulence and wealth of Israel's ruling class. Over two hundred delicate ivory plaques carved in Phoenician style with Egyptian motifs and stylistically dated to the eighth century BC probably decorated the walls of the palace or the fine furniture of Israelite royalty. They attest to the wealth and cosmopolitan tastes of the Israelite monarchs and the noble families of their kingdom. The famous Samaria ostraca, receipts for shipments of oil and wine delivered from the countryside to the capital city, represent a sophisticated system of credit and record keeping in which the produce of the hinterland was claimed by large landowners or by government tax officials who supervised the collection of the crop. (143)

It is at the height of prosperity of the northern kingdom under the rule of Jeroboam II that we can finally identify the full complement of the criteria of statehood: literacy, bureaucratic administration, specialized economic production, and a professional army. It is also the period when we have the first record of prophetic protest. (143)

Archaeology shows that the early kings of Judah were not the equals of their northern counterparts in power or administrative ability despite the fact that their reigns and even accession dates are intertwined in the books of Kings. Israel and Judah were two different worlds. With the possible exception of the city of Lachish in the foothills of the Shephelah, there are no signs of elaborate regional centers within Judah on the scale of the northern sites of Gezer, Megiddo, and Hazor. Likewise, Judahite urban planning and architecture was far more rustic. Monumental building techniques ­ such as the use of ashlar masonry and Proto-Aeolic capitals that typified the elaborate Omride building style in the northern kingdom - did not appear in the south before the seventh century BC. Even if royal structures of the house of David in Jerusalem (supposedly obliterated by later buildings) achieved some measure of impressiveness, if not grandeur, there is no evidence for monumental construction in the few towns and villages anywhere else in the southern hills. (143)

But after the fall of Samaria, with the increasing centralization of the kingdom of Judah, a new, more focused attitude toward religious law and practice began to catch hold. Jerusalem's influence - demographic, economic, and political - was now enormous and it was linked to a new political and territorial agenda: the unification of all Israel. And the determination of its priestly and prophetic establishment to define the "proper" methods of worship for all the people of Judah - and indeed for those Israelites living under Assyrian rule in the north - rose accordingly. These dramatic changes in religious leadership have prompted biblical scholars such as Baruch Halpern to suggest that in a period of no more than a few decades in the late eighth and early seventh century BC, the monotheistic tradition ofJudeo-Christian civilization was born. (143)

At the end of the late Bronze Age (around 3.3 kya/1300 BC) the economy of the eastern Mediterranean was thriving. Evidence of the scale of this activity is found in the extraordinary cargo of a wrecked ship found at Uluburun near Kas in southwest Turkey. On the basis of tree-ring analysis, the ship is dated as having sunk around 1306 BC The cargo comprised mostly raw materials, the most extensive of which was approximately 10 tons of copper ingots. There was also a ton of terebinth resin, possibly used as incense, and 175 glass ingots of cobalt blue, turquoise and a unique lavender colour. In addition, there were logs of Egyptian ebony, ostrich eggshells, elephant tusks, hippopotamus teeth, opercula from murex seashells (another possible ingredient for incense) and modified tortoise carapaces (almost certainly sound-boxes for stringed musical instruments). Finished products found at the site have been linked to at least nine cultures from the Baltic to Nubia, and include Cypriot pottery, metal vessels, wooden containers, beads, and cloth or garments, tools of trade (weights), possessions of the traders (e.g. swords and seals) and jewellery including a gold scarab bearing the cartouche of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti. (145)

The Sea People were always presented as a negative and destructive force for the region. This may be unfair. True, the Sea People destroyed much through their campaigns. On the other hand, they were probably the founders of the Philistine and Phoenician civilizations, which grew to be included among the most important forces in the eastern Mediterranean when the region emerged from the dark age at the beginning of the first millennium BC. (145)

Sometime around 1200 BC the Anatolian plain as far east as Kayseri was overrun by a warlike race known to classical history as the Phrygians, who established the kingdom of Phrygia. According to very ancient classical sources, this kingdom had been the abode of a race of fire-genii known as the Cabiri. Indeed, according to the writers Plutarch and Strabo there had even been 'a country of the Cabiri' situated 'on the borders of Phrygia'. Greek mythology asserts that the Cabiri had been the first metalworkers - 'underground smiths' associated with the fire of volcanoes - born of Vulcan (or Hephaestus). He was the divine blacksmith and god of fire, from whom we derive the root for words such as 'volcano' and 'vulcanism'. The origins of the Cabiri are obscure, for they crop up in legends connected with several places, including the Greek island of Lemnos, Egypt, Thessaly and Phoenicia, and each time the story varies slightly. However, it is generally accepted that the original Cabiri legends came from Phrygia, and that they may well represent abstract memories of Asia Minor's most ancient metal-workers. Since we know these to have been the Catal Huyuk folk of the Konya plain, then there is no reason not to link this culture with the traditions concerning the Cabiri's metalworking exploits at the dawn of civilization. (149)


 One of the greatest New Kingdom rulers, Thutmosis III, reigned for fifty-four years (1479-1425 BC), and his mummified body suggests that he died still looking quite young for his many years and accomplishments. Thutmosis III established Egypt's Asiatic empire with his conquest of much of the eastern Mediterranean coastal areas. Even powerful Assyria paid material tribute to the Egyptian Empire, as did the Babylonians and the Hittites.

One of the most famous New Kingdom monarchs was Akhenaten (ruled 1350-1335 BC), who introduced a semi-monotheistic religion and tried to eradicate vestiges of older polytheistic cults.

The "Boy King," Tutankhamun reigned as a teenager from about 1333 to 1323 BC and powerful members of his court tried to reestablish the power of the central court by reviving the state religion in the classical traditions of the cult of Amun.

Between about 1327 BC and the accession of Ramesses II (ruled 1290-1224 BC), Egypt's fortunes varied, with periods of foreign invasion and some internal breakdowns of the social order.

Some scholars think that it may have been Ramesses II, or his successor, Mer-ne-Ptah, who refused to let the Israelites leave, as related in the biblical Exodus story, but few scholars consider this story to have much-if any-historical basis. There is little if any reliable evidence of major changes in the archaeological record of Palestine at the time the Exodus story is supposed to have occurred, nor are there any evident traces in Sinai, where presumably the million or more Israelites would have wandered.

In any case, the Exodus story is a classic example of the collision of myth and the positivistic view of history. All history is interpretation, and the phrase "what actually happened" is to some scholars meaningless.

At about 1000 BC, Egypt lost military control of Nubia, and the breakup of its Asiatic empire brought it into confrontation with the Israel of David and Solomon. The Egyptians captured a city on the border of Israel and agreed to peace with the marriage of the pharaoh's daughter to Solomon. But five years after Solomon's death Seshonk I invaded Israel, plundered Jerusalem, and reestablished Egypt's control.

During the first millennium BC Egypt had various periods of resurgence when various kings reasserted Egyptian influence in Palestine and Africa, and as late as 715 BC Shako conquered the Delta and forged a unified country once again. But continued military pressures from Kush and the disintegration of national political and economic systems ate away at the country's structure and stability, and at about 525 BC Cambyses, a Persian king conquered Egypt and reduced it to a vassal kingdom, proclaiming himself pharaoh. (47)

Many simplistic notions about the origins of cultural complexity have foundered on the evidence from Egypt. Population growth, for example, may have produced fairly dense concentrations of people in favorable agricultural areas, but the long-term pattern of population growth was probably one of very slow increase through most of antiquity. But irrigation in ancient Egypt was primarily through the passive blessings of the Nile flood, and such irrigation works as were constructed seem to have been small, local installations that did not require a lot of people or “paperwork” to run them. But the location of settlements, the lack of walled towns and forts, and the art and literature do not support the notion that the critical factor in Egyptian state origins was Menes or someone else strapping on his sword, massing his troops, and marching to the Mediterranean, leaving a unified political state in his wake. Warfare was part of the state formation process, but probably as a mechanism, not a primary cause.

If we view these pyramids as mechanisms to mobilize and train a large work force, we must ask why such a work force would be an advantage, because when the first pyramids were built there were few large irrigation works and little demand for a standing army. If we view the vast expenditures of wealth in the funerary complexes as a means of "balancing" the economy by taking out of circulation inordinate amounts of gold, silver, or craft items, there is some difficulty in explaining why this would have been necessary in a society whose economic system and long-distance trade were strictly controlled by the monarchy and where there were few large markets and almost no free enterprise or capitalism of any kind.

In Conclusion, it has proven remarkably difficult to prise apart the many causes and effects that make up Egyptian cultural history, but we are beginning to understand at least some aspects of this history. And, like other early civilizations, there is much about Egypt that is interesting and rewarding at a level beyond that of its history. (47)

Beginning in the time of Ramses III, Medinet Habu became more than a religious center, expanding as an administrative center for western Thebes with government offices and warehouses and a growing population living in private homes all surrounded by city walls 60 feet high. The 5,000 artifacts excavated there represent one of the largest collections of materials from a single site in Egypt and include remains from every period of the site's occupation, from about 1500 BC until AD 800. (88)

Digs in Greece, Turkey, Syria, and Egypt reveal a stunning story of upheaval, war, and widespread social breakdown. In the last years of the thirteenth century BC and the beginning of the twelfth, the entire ancient world went through a dramatic transformation, as a devastating crisis swept away the Bronze Age kingdoms and a new world began to emerge. This was one of the most dramatic and chaotic periods in history, with old empires falling and new forces rising to take their place. (143)

Beforehand - as late as the mid-thirteenth century BC - two great empires ruled the region. In the south, Egypt was at its peak. Ruled by Ramesses II, it controlled Canaan, including the territories of modern Lebanon and southwestern Syria. In the south it dominated Nubia, and in the west It ruled over Libya. The Egyptian empire was engaged in monumental building activity and participated in lucrative trade in the eastern Mediterranean. Emissaries and merchants from Crete, Cyprus, Canaan, and Hatti frequented Egypt and brought gifts to the pharaoh: Turquoise and copper mines in Sinai and the Negev were exploited by Egyptian expeditions. There had never been such an expansive or powerful empire in Egypt. One needs only to stand before the Abu Simbel temple in Nubia or the famous temples of Karnak and Luxor to feel the grandeur of Egypt in the thirteenth century BC. (143)

Indus Valley

 The centers of power and influence gradually shifted from the Indus Valley to the Great Ganges River Valley where, after about 1100 BC, large cities were built and state-level political systems were formed. Many Harappan elements appeared in these later societies, including aspects of metallurgy, architecture, pottery styles, and agriculture.

It is difficult to see an obvious equation between the simple ecological circumstances of life on the ancient Indus Plain and the differences that distinguish Harappan settlements from those in Mesopotamia or Egypt. The planning and execution of Harappan settlements bespeak a powerful centralized authority, perhaps rivaling that of ancient Egypt, but there is no evidence in Harappa of the great tombs, palaces, and pyramids that accompanied theocratic states in Egypt and elsewhere.

Commerce appears to have been very one-sided, however, with little going from Southwest Asia to the Indus area, and this has suggested to some that Harappan civilization may have been established and maintained mainly by Mesopotamian or Iranian states Indeed some Mesopotamian elements exist in the Indus cultures--carved stone boxes, dice, faience, wheeled vehicles, shaft-hole axes, religious art motifs, and the “ram-style” sculptural motif. (48)


 Both archaeological evidence and ancient documents written after the Shang period indicate that Shang society was headed by a king, who ruled through a hierarchically arranged nobility. Commoners were conscripted for public works and military service; there were highly organized and incessant military campaigns; and many settlements were apparently integrated into an organized inter-village system of commmerce. It has not been determined if there were large-scale irrigation systems, but at Zhengzhou at least a canal system was in use, perhaps to carry water to the settlement or else to remove drainage water or sewage from the complex. (49)

The last and most brilliant phase of Shang civilization, the Yin phase, seems to have begun about 1384 BC, when the Shang king P'an-keng is reported to have moved his capital to the city of Angang, in Hunan Province. Scores of sites within an area of about twenty-four square kilometers have been tested, and the evidence suggests that the complex at Angang includes a large ceremonial and administrative center surrounded by smaller dependent hamlets and craft centers. True to tradition, most peasants still lived in small pit houses-not very different from those of 2,000 years earlier. Scattered throughout the settlement were granaries, pottery kilns, storage pits, bone and bronze workshops, animal pens, ditches, and other familiar features of ancient Chinese life. Elsewhere, a complex of ceremonial buildings at Hsiao-T'un was dedicated with what appears to have been the sacrifice of 852 people, 15 horses, 10 oxen, 18 sheep, 35 dogs, and 5 fully equipped chariots and charioteers. A recent bumper sticker declared "If I can't take it with me, I ain't going"--a sentiment probably very agreeable to Shang rulers. Tomb after tomb was stocked with everything from chariots to rice. (49)

At the apex of Shang society was the king, who ruled directly on many affairs of state and was assisted by a complex hierarchy of nobles possessing considerable local autonomy in their respective territories. These lords were charged with defending the homeland, supplying men for armies and public-works projects, and collecting and contributing state taxes. Toward the end of the Shang period, many nobles apparently achieved almost feudal status and were virtually independent in their own domains. But the king was still considered to have superior supernatural powers and to be the pivot of all ritual procedures. The kingdom was viewed in the traditional Chinese fashion, with itself as the center of the universe but ringed by non-Shang "barbarians," whom the Shang kings manipulated through force and diplomacy.

On occasion, royal armies of up to about 30,000 men were conscripted and led by the nobles against insurgent "barbarians" and neighboring principalities. The basis of the army was the horse-drawn chariot, supported by infantrymen armed with powerful laminated wood and bone bows and bronze-tipped arrows, and equipped with small knives and/or halberds, which were large knives or axes mounted on the end of a wood shaft about six feet long. Royal records indicate that military campaigns often incurred and inflicted frightful casualties. No doubt many hundreds of thousands of people died in ferocious wars of which history no longer has any record. Staggering quantities of plunder were often taken, along with thousands of prisoners, most of whom were apparently sacrificed or enslaved. (49)

The discovery of large caches of agricultural implements (3,500 stone sickles, new and used, in a single pit at one site, for example) may indicate a degree of centralized management of both agriculture and craft production. The Shang even had a type of money, in the form of strings of cowrie shells. (49)

After 1100 BC, the Zhou empire and its successors arranged much of China in a feudal system that led to the growth of cities, great cycles of peace followed by warfare, and minutely differentiated administrative hierarchies. Again and again particular families of nobles or commoners would rise to power, make war on their neighbors, extend their kingdoms, and then collapse under the onslaught of competing warlords. Through it all, exquisite bronzes, porcelains, pots, and jewelry were made and lavished on the rich; untold thousands of people were sacrificed to be buried with their rulers; and millions lived and died in the eternal agricultural cycle of rural China. (49)

The Shang showed the passionate preoccupation with hierarchy and rank that would become one of the hallmarks of Chinese civilization. As the son of Di, the king was at the top of the feudal pyramid, in a class of his own. Next in rank were the princes of the royal house, rulers of the various Shang cities; below them came the heads of the great families, who held posts at court, and the barons, who lived on the revenues from rural territories outside the city walls. Finally, at the base of the feudal pyramid, were the ordinary gentlemen, the warrior class. The urban life of the Shang nobility had almost nothing in common with that of the peasant communities who farmed the land. The aristocrats regarded them as scarcely human, but, like the barbarians, the peasants also had a lasting influence on Chinese culture. The peasants identified closely with the soil, and their society was organized around the recurrent rhythms of nature. Peasant life was dominated by the distinction between winter and summer. In spring, the work season began. The men moved out of the village and took up permanent residence in huts in the fields; during the work season, they had no contact with their wives and daughters, except when the women brought them their meals. After the harvest, the land was laid to rest and the men moved back home. They sealed up their dwellings and stayed indoors for the whole of the winter. This was their sabbatical period, for rest and recuperation, but the women, who had less to do during the summer, now began their season of labor: weaving, spinning, and making wine. (158)


 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)

Over the last four years, American and Russian archaeologists have I examined 44 mounds, or kurgans, near the town of Pokrovka in Kazakhstan at the Russian border, where ancient nomad cultures buried their dead. From the grave goods and other evidence, the burials appeared to be associated first with the Sauromatians and then the early Sarmatians, Indo-European-speaking herders who lived on the steppes in the sixth to fourth centuries BC and fourth to second centuries BC, respectively. But the most striking discovery at Pokrovka has been the skeletons of women buried with swords and daggers. One young woman, bowlegged from riding horseback, wore around her neck an amulet in the form of a leather pouch containing a bronze arrowhead. At her right side was an iron dagger; at her left, a quiver holding more than 40 arrows tipped with bronze. In the earlier Sauromatian graves, the skeletons revealed one suggestive Amazonian attribute. The men and women, at an average of five feet, 10 inches and five feet, six inches, respectively, were taller and more robust than normal people at that time. (91)

Of more importance, the new discoveries are forcing anthropologists and historians to reconsider the status and role of women in the Eurasian nomad societies of the first millennium BC. The research, she said, showed that women seemed to have more wealth, power and status in these cultures than anyone had thought. And certain women, perhaps the elite of the tribe, appeared to be trained from an early age to be warriors on horseback. In her analysis, Dr. Davis-Kimball said burials at Pokrovka and other sites seemed to reveal three categories for women of the culture. Graves with luxury goods, including beads, colored glass and gilted earrings, suggested that the "most frequently found status among females," she said, "is that of femininity and the hearth." The women in a few graves might have been priestesses; they were buried with stone altars, bronze mirrors used in healing and other cultic materials. Finally, there were the warrior women. (91)

"From the eighth century BC, the Greeks were looking for land beyond Athens that could sustain them," Dr. Carter said. "By then the city was overpopulated and expansion was essential. People assume mistakenly that those who lived in the country were economically and socially inferior to those in the Greek cities. It wasn't true at all." "The division of the countryside was really the basic division of Greek society," said Galina Nikolaenko, deputy director of the archaeological museum here and the director of the dig in the agricultural territory. 'That was really the core of democracy. And this we never really realized until now." (93)

Natural science and human reason blossomed in their combined Hellenistic culture prior to and after the local "dark ages" from 1200 to 800 BC. These Greeks refused to humble themselves before the Mesopotamian gods or submit themselves to the dictates of their representatives, including the "divinely" anointed kings of Persia. They stressed rational inquiry and placed their faith in tested knowledge instead of asserted truths, and they saw the gods as beings to be dealt with directly. (113)

In linking Troy and Phoenicia, I could start with the general conclusion that from about 1800 to about 1400 BC, Greece was dominated by Northwest Semites ("Phoenicians"), who linked it linguistically and culturally with the whole Semitic Levant…(120)

A grand alliance of those whose trade and livelihoods were threatened by the growing power of the Greeks with their fingers at the throat of Mediterranean commerce was raised by their competitors, some being based in America, joining forces with the sea-peoples of the west Mediterranean allied to numerous land-peoples. Their fleets appearing suddenly over the horizon caught the Mykenaeans unprepared. The Mykenaeans were slaughtered in Greece and Crete but Athens withstood its siege and the Egyptians, against whom the grand alliance turned after destroying the mighty Hittite Empire and sacking the rich cities of the east Mediterranean, twice defeated them both by sea and by land. The anarchy by sea 'of this period and the coming of the Dorians and others with iron weapons by land led to the first Dark Age of the Western World. This was the war of the Titans, after which-the Bronze Age being over - the Americans troubled the Mediterranean no more. (135)

The Phoenicians alone retained some of the trade secrets of the earlier world. In the resulting power-vacuum phoenix-like they rose from the ashes of their burnt-out cities and flourished, as the Arabs - sometime another name for the same people - were to flourish in the second great Dark Age. Phoenicians planted colonies on the ruins of their predecessors from Greece to Spain, sailed eastwards to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific as well as westwards. They traded around West Africa, rediscovered by chance America, planting a colony in Mexico to the great benefit of the Mexicans. They brought civilisation back to Europe. (135)

The coming of steel sees the destruction in the Old world of the inherited capital of the Bronze Age empires and their elaborate social and intellectual structures. Greek states have to start again almost from the beginning - hence the bitter lament of Hesiod about the terrible coming of iron. (135)

Digs in Greece, Turkey, Syria, and Egypt reveal a stunning story of upheaval, war, and widespread social breakdown. In the last years of the thirteenth century BC and the beginning of the twelfth, the entire ancient world went through a dramatic transformation, as a devastating crisis swept away the Bronze Age kingdoms and a new world began to emerge. This was one of the most dramatic and chaotic periods in history, with old empires falling and new forces rising to take their place. (143)

These dark ages were first identified clearly in the 1940s by the eminent French archaeologist Claude Schaeffer, who carried out major excavations of Enkomi, in Cyprus, Malatya, on the Turkish coast, and Ugarit, on the Mediterranean coast of northern Syria. He discovered various major destruction layers, which showed traces of fire and destruction that he originally identified as being caused by earthquakes. He then linked this work with the fact that many other places spanning a territory with a diameter of nearly 5000 km (from Troy in the west to Tepe Hissar in the east, and from the Black Sea in the north to Lachish in the south) had been repeatedly destroyed during their Bronze Age existence. Up to four successive destruction levels were present in all sites, the most prominent of which were detected at the end of the Early Bronze Age (about 4.3 kya), at the end of the Middle Bronze Age (about 3.65 kya), and at the end of the Late Bronze Age (about 3.2 kya). Furthermore, similar ecological and social upheavals appeared to have occurred at around the same time in China and the Americas. (145)

South America

 "Explosive" is a somewhat incongruous term when applied to cultural changes that happened over centuries, but in retrospect the cultural transformation of Andean South America in the first millennium BC seems so pervasive and rapid that use of the term is not a great exaggeration.  (52)

The Chavin are known as a jaguar-worshipping culture, as are the Olmecs. In addition, both groups carved curious head statuary, some with downturned lips, and are the only cultures to display these features. Perhaps the most enigmatic parallel between the two civilizations is their sudden appearance from obscure origins, followed by urbanization, stratification, and specialization coincident with the building of sizeable monuments. It is the monuments such as the colossal Olmec heads and the Tello Obelisk that usually divert attention from the most fundamental question: Where did these civilizations originate? (68)

Incan society was tightly organized. At the head was the supreme Inca, a direct descendant of the sun. The supreme Inca's rule was I absolute: He was the head of state, commander of the armies, and authority for all taxes and laws. In short, he was "the source from which everything flows" and his title was passed on from one generation to the next so that the noble lineage remained pure and genetically intact. (68)

When I read through the ancient Babylonian inscriptions and tablets, I remember believing them the product of a bookkeeping, restrictive, protocol-minded society. All that talk about flocks and ships and slaves and business, no matter how superficially "divine." And the Inca's flocks, the Inca's storehouses, wasn't it essentially the same--the subjugation of an entire population to serve an autocratic, theocratic, divine-right king. (120)

The Phoenician inscription found in Brazil detailing how a party of Phoenicians was cast on the Brazilian coast "in the nineteenth year of Hiram" is very specific about having left from Ezion-Geber: …We embarked from Ezion-Geber into the Red Sea and voyaged with ten ships… So a definite Hiram-Ezion-Geber-Brazilian interconnection is established. They had begun working African mines but by chance were cast into another of the richest gold areas in the world--Northeast Brazil. The Brahmi inscriptions in Brazil brought the interchange up to at least 500 BC, and the time of Solomon-Hiram of Tyre stretches back to 1000 BC; so there's a 500-year period of trans-Atlantic crossings…at least! In fact, in trying to establish an interconnection between Brahmi, a script of Northern India, and Brazil, the logical vehicle of transmission would have been Alexander the Great's imperial communication-structure, which in the third century BC stretched from North India all the way to Egypt/Libya. So all likelihood was that the contact between the Red Sea/African gold trade and Brazil lasted about 700 years! (120)

Then with the terrible coming of iron, about 1200 BC, the price of tin and copper in the metal markets of the Mediterranean dropped and the arduous and dangerous Atlantic voyages no longer repaid their cost. South America was half-forgotten by the Mediterranean world. This is why there was negligible writing in South America when the Spaniards came. Volcanic eruptions contributed to the disaster. (135)


 …beginning at about 1000 BC, people built massive clay pyramids and platforms, lived in small-town groups of hundreds or even thousands, intensively farmed a variety of ecological zones, and produced what is one of the world's most valued examples of stone sculpture. These people are known to us as the Olmec…(51)

…we know the Olmec primarily from their larger ceremonial centers, an on this basis they are an impressive culture. On the San Lorenzo plateau in southern Veracruz, for example, people had been living since about 1500 BC, exploiting its good soil and natural springs. Then sometime after about 1250 BC, the inhabitants of this area began moving tons of earth and clay in baskets to level the plateau's upper surface over an area some 600 by 100 meters. (51)

San Lorenzo's florescence was followed by that of another Olmec site, La Venta, located on a small island in a coastal swamp near the Tonal River. At this location the Olmec constructed a series of mounds, platforms, courts and pyramids covering more than five square kilometers. (51)

What is particularly important, however, is that this Epi-Olmec script contains logograms that are semantically equivalent to very similar-looking Mayan glyphs and that the Olmec were using essentially the same calendar. These Epi-Olmec inscriptions refer to the accession of various rulers, to what seems to be a war between brothers-in-law, and to other dynastic and calendrical matters. (51)

From about 800 BC, the population density of the Valley of Mexico increased considerably. At least ten sites were larger than fifty hectares (each inhabited by about 1,000 people), and one, Cuicuilco, probably had a population of about 2,500. (51)

Shortly after 1400 BC, the most productive areas of the piedmont and the alluvium in the Valley of Oaxaca were occupied by small villages composed of perhaps fifty people living in tiny wattle-and-daub structures. The first significant deviation from this pattern of egalitarian farmers occurred sometime between 1350 BC and 1150 BC, when the inhabitants of at least one site (San Jose Mogote) at different times built several “public buildings" of earth and adobe construction. Although these structures average only 5.4 by 4.4 meters each, they are interpreted as public buildings because the floors were carefully covered with a distinctive white lime plaster and swept clean, in contrast to the average house of this period, the floors of which were usually stamped clay and sand and covered with household debris. (51)

After about 850 BC, variation in settlement size in Oaxaca increased; by 550 BC, San Jose Mogote, for example, grew to fifteen times the size of the next largest community. Many settlements excavated have public architecture, and their distribution seems to mirror the growing importance of social and political factors in determining site location. (51)

One direct stimulus to the development of Maya civilization appears to have been the migration of people from the periphery of the Maya areas into the core areas of the lowlands and highlands between about 1000 BC and AD 609. (51)

…like ancient Chinese, Mesopotamians, and many others, the early Maya farmers buried their closest relatives under their house floors… At about 600 BC, however some Maya, such as those at K'axob, began burying their dead in the core of large stone and earth platforms—which themselves are an architectural reflection of important changes occurring in these formerly simple small villages. Between 600 BC 400 BC people at Nakbe and other sites built lovely stone and masonry buildings on huge platforms and depicted gods and ancestors on building facades, stelae, masks, and other objects. (51)

The Chavin are known as a jaguar-worshipping culture, as are the Olmecs. In addition, both groups carved curious head statuary, some with downturned lips, and are the only cultures to display these features. Perhaps the most enigmatic parallel between the two civilizations is their sudden appearance from obscure origins, followed by urbanization, stratification, and specialization coincident with the building of sizeable monuments. It is the monuments such as the colossal Olmec heads and the Tello Obelisk that usually divert attention from the most fundamental question: Where did these civilizations originate? (68)

A laboratory analysis of material from a Honduran cave filled with human skulls and bones has produced two potentially significant surprises. People were burying their dead in the cave as long ago as 3,000 years, about the time King David was capturing Jerusalem and before the founding of Rome. This was a considerably earlier time than previously estimated and means that the cave holds the earliest scientifically dated evidence for the emergence of complex society in Honduras. It may be that only the Olmec society of southern Mexico is older in Central America. Dr. Brady said this was the earliest radiocarbon date for cultural material in Honduras. Among the artifacts in the burial chamber were broken pieces of jade, 20 intact or restorable ceramic vessels and two large marble bowls. (99)

I would follow the Olmecs back from La Venta in Mexico (1154-174 BC) to Morelos and Tlaltilco in Central Mexico (1500-1000 BC), to Panama (2130 BC), all the way down to Ecuador and the Pacific coast (2393-2093 BC). (120)

Later, America was re-discovered by a ship blown off its course and a Phoenician colony was planted about 900 BC on the coast of Mexico near the gold and silver mines. This Phoenician colony, garrisoned by West African troops, kept in occasional touch with Carthage. By that time the Phoenician lords could read and write. Writing seems to have developed in Mexico with the Olmec culture and it spread to the Mayas, near by, on the Yucatan peninsula. Along with writing came the influence of African art. Powerful and fruitful as were these several later influences, we must remember firstly that the period spanned between the arrival of the first maritime prospectors and that of Columbus and the Spaniard extended over 7000 years and secondly that the American continent stretches 10,000 miles from top to toe. Isolation was the norm, contact and colonisation the exception. But what potent and exciting exceptions! (135)

650 BC Start of Maya culture in Guatemala. (135)

Beginning about 1400 BC in the tropical lowlands of Mexico's southern Gulf Coast, the Olmecs achieved an unprecedented level of social and political complexity. At San Lorenzo, at least ten rulers were memorialized between 1400 and 1000 BC with colossal stone portrait heads such as the one from Hueyapan. The hard basalt stone used to fashion these heads, along with the multi-ton table-top thrones and over a hundred sculptures of humans and supernatural beings were brought from volcanic slopes 60 km away. The inhabitants of San Lorenzo reshaped the plateau on which the capital rose with extensive terraces and built causeways across the swampy lowlands to river ports. Later, between 1000 and 400 BC, the rulers of La Venta constructed a carefully planned civic and ceremonial precinct with over 30 earthen mounds, the largest rising 30 m above the grand plaza below. (159)

...recent excavations at San Lorenzo very clearly indicate that colossal heads and other monuments were being carved in the succeeding San Lorenzo phase (ca. 1400-1000 BC). Colossal heads and table-top altar-thrones express the power and authority of individual rulers and the contexts of these and other monuments within sites reinforce their political messages. ...the archaeological evidence for warfare among the Olmecs is notable for its scarcity and ambiguity. (159)

The Middle Formative period (ca. 1000-400 BC) saw important changes in Olmec culture and society. At the beginning of the period, San Lorenzo suffered a sharp decline; although people continued to occupy the San Lorenzo plateau, they virtually ceased to erect stone monuments, and many of the surrounding settlements were abandoned. On the western frontier of Olman, Tres Zapotes emerged as a regional center. In the east, La Venta continued to expand, ultimately to become the most spectacular of Olmec capitals. (159)

Early Formative style zones in Mesoamerica

In addition to these local processes, similarities in the pottery of the Soconusco, central Chiapas, and the Gulf Coast suggest that these regions were bound together in a sphere of interaction from very early times. The high frequencies of Olmec-style artifacts and the presence of Olmec decorative and technological styles in several different artifact classes make Canton Corralito the strongest candidate for an enclave of Olmecs outside of Olman, or for that matter, one of the strongest for a foreign enclave at any time in Mesoamerica's history. (159)

...the social landscape of the Early Formative period was a varied and dynamic one in which diverse regions in varying degrees were tied to one another through the exchange of material goods, symbols, and ideas. In many parts of Mesoamerica, from Guerrero to Honduras, social roles were becoming more clearly differentited. Some of this differentiation was horizontal, in the sense that groups of people of similar status specialized in their activities. Horizontal differentiation is most evident in craft production, where it is indicated by the uniformity and/or skillful execution of figurines, ceramic vessels, obsidian blades, stone monuments and other artifacts, as well as by concentrations of manufacturing debris. In some cases entire neighborhoods or villages appear to have specialized in the manufacture of particular goods, for example of iron ore mirrors in one area of San Jose Mogote or obsidian blades at Coapexco. In each of the areas we have examined, differences in house construction, artifact inventories, and/or grave lots suggest variations in household wealth. In the Soconusco, a marked difference in the size and construction of structures reasonably interpreted as residences suggests that social ranking emerged before 1500 BC, although discrete ranks are less evident in burials. (159)

Social differentiation had begun to emerge in several parts of Mesoamerica by 1000 BC, but centralized political organization was still the exception. By the end of the Middle Formative period, formal social hierarchies with inherited status were common, and locally powerful political centers had appeared across most of Mesoamerica. (159)

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)


 654 BC Phoenician colony on Ibiza, in Balearic Islands. (135)