Governance                  2,000 BC
Southwest Asia
Indus Valley
South America
North America

the Globe article titled "Comets and Disasters in the Bronze Age," which appeared in the journal British Archaeology in 1997: At some time around 2300 BC, give or take a century or two, a large number of the major civilizations of this world collapsed, simultaneously it seems. The Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia, the Old Kingdom in Egypt, the Early Bronze Age civilization in Israel, Anatolia and Greece, as well as the Indus Valley civilization in India, the Hilmand civilization in Afghanistan and Hongshan Culture in China-the first urban civilizations in the world--all fell into ruin at more or less the same time. Why? (69)

The American colonies were to Bronze Age Crete and Spain as greater in extent and richer as today Brazil is to Portugal and the United States to Britain. Political power, then, among the Pelasgians at least, swung to America. In the second millennium, America influenced the Old World as well as the Old world influencing America. The taking over of Crete, the destruction of Troy and the devastation of the whole Troad by the Mykenaeans, was a small part of one consistent, bitter, brutal, pursuit of commercial monopoly in the Mediterranean. (135)

Whoever was part of the great, Bronze Age oecumene was part of a living, civilised world. Colonies supplied the metropolitan country with raw material; the mother country sent it back as manufactured goods, with her own trade-marks stamped on it. This goes for ideas as well as for metals. Ideas are also extracted from the hinterland, rubbed up by the Great Power and returned, re-embellished. When it is said that Sumerians invented bronze, the wheel and writing, we do not know whether the invention was not the product of one of their subject peoples. And most certainly in the second millennium, America powerfully influenced the Mediterranean as well as the reverse. (135)

The second part of the Bronze Age sees increasing Greek influence in America and the Atlantic trade, with Pelasgians dominating Central and South America. It is the heroic age by virtue of its maritime enterprise ­ with alternative homes for Pelasgians, Cretan and Mykenaeans in the wealthy and leisured colonies of America. (135)

Sun-worshippers seem to have become prominent, for the second time, about 2500 BC and the religion maintains itself until 1200 BC. Chronos, the time-people, also worship the sun and dominate from 1930 to 1600 BC. Atlas, the western sea-people, are powerful from 1930 to 1200 BC. Zeus, sky-god of the Greeks and Trojans, would seem to have been powerful from 1600 BC to the coming of Christ. (135)


 Atlas was called by Hesiod the son of Japetus, or a white man, Pliny called him the son of Libya. In the second millennium the Atlas people were seemingly white Africans from North Africa and the Canary Islands, with lodgments on both sides of the Mediterranean. (135)

Southwest Asia

After a decade of excavations, an international team of archaeologists is convinced that the long-lost Urkesh has been found. They have uncovered clay tablets and seal impressions, metal tools and detailed drawings revealing that Urkesh was a real city and that its ruins lie buried beneath the modern Syrian town of Tell Mozan, 400 miles northeast of Damascus. From 10,000 to 20,000 people once inhabited the city, archaeologists estimated. It probably flourished for several centuries in the late third millennium BC and then declined and faded from sight, perhaps as a result of falling water tables in an arid land. (87)

Moreover, the name Uqnitum for the queen is Akkadian, meaning "the lapis-lazuli girl," or one who is cherished like a precious stone. The king's name, Tupkish, is from the Hurrian language. The archaeologists said this may well imply royal intermarriage between different ethnic groups. A date of 2300 to 2200 BC has been estimated for these artifacts, based in part on radiocarbon tests. The archaeologists said the existence of the tablet, plus the fragments of some 40 administrative texts on clay, and the architectural layout of the building suggested that this had been a place where scribes worked. (87)

Kumarbi, the principal god of the Hurrian pantheon, was already known as the "father of the city Urkesh" and described as residing in Urkesh, "where he resolves with justice the lawsuits of all the lands." In mythology, Urkesh is the only known Syrian city to be mentioned as the seat of a primordial god. (87)

The earliest Sumerian and Egyptian representational sculptures and drawings include individuals holding scepters, staves with ankhs, varied crosses or helicoids, cups, and incense burners. Officious-looking figures wear elaborate robes, girded with decorative belts or aprons, conical hats with various flaps and distinctive symbols, and special necklaces. These personages frequently surround an enthroned individual or someone with other symbols of power. In other scenes they appear to be performing ceremonies around a table or altar. The best documentation of this priestly function comes from west Asian cylinder seals, figurines, and fragments of sculpture, and from paintings of the early Egyptian Pharaonic period four to five millennia ago. These depictions show ruling figures separated from the ordinary workers by a corps of retainers. (113)

…it was under the rule of Khammurabi, who was the sixth king of the Dynasty, and reigned for about 42 years, that Babylon attained its greatest influence and splendour, and became the first city in Babylonia. He marched against Rim-Sin, who had captured Isin, and took Larsa, and made its king a prisoner, and thus the power of Larsa came to an end. He conducted campaigns in Sumer, Upper Babylonia and Assyria, and was victorious everywhere; among the cities taken by him were Nineveh and Ashur. He was not only a great warrior, but a great organizing ruler, who thought that nothing concerning the welfare of his kingdom or people was too small or unimportant to deserve his personal supervision. His desire to make his subjects a law-abiding people is shown by the Code of Laws that he compiled, and it is clear from it that he realized no kingdom could stand that was not ruled by justice coupled with wisdom and humanity. He was undoubtedly the greatest king of Babylonia and perhaps the greatest man the country ever produced. That his Code was based upon existing Sumerian Codes of Laws does not detract from its merit as containing the most comprehensive series of wise and humane laws that has come down to us from an Oriental King. Khammurabi's Letters and Dispatches prove that he devoted much care and attention to the affairs of his kingdom, and the decisions which he made show that he ruled the people with justice and with due regard to what he believed to be their best interests. He insisted that all difficult questions should be referred to him for his personal consideration, and he considered no detail of administration too small or unimportant for his attention. (118)

In some cases the parents were able to pay for the keep of the child until it grew up, but it is clear from the law in the Code of Khammurabi that children were sometimes allowed to die, and the nurse substituted other children. That Khammurabi found it necessary to make such a law shows that baby-farming was common in Babylonia. Some of the boys who were farmed out were adopted by well-to-do but childless citizens who needed help on their farms or in their businesses, and some of the girls were taken under the protection of the temple-women, who brought them up wand made them servants in the temples. (118)

"When the exalted Anu, the King of the Anunnaki, and Enlil (Bel), the lord of heaven and earth, the determiner of the destiny of the land entrusted to Marduk, the eldest son of Enki (Ea), the lordship, of the multitudes of men--when they magnified him among the Igigi, and proclaimed the exalted name of KA-DINGIRRA-KI and made it renowned among the Four Quarters of the World and established in the midst thereof an everlasting kingdom whereof the foundations were as solid as [those of] heaven and earth--at that time they (i.e. Anu and Enlil) called me Khammurabi, the exalted prince, the reverer of the gods, to make justice to prevail in the land, to overthrow wickedness and evil, to relieve the weak from the oppression of the strong, to rule the Black Heads like Shamash, to illumine the land, and to promote the wellbeing of men. I am Khammurabi, the Shepherd (i.e. Governor) proclaimed by Enlil, who perfected prosperity and abundance, who provided in full measure whatsoever was [required] for the city EN-LIL-KI (Nippur) and the city of Dur-ilu, the glorious restorer(?) of the temple E-KUR [in Nippur], the wise king who restored NUNNKI to its place, who cleared out the shrine of the temple E-ZU-AB, who conquered the Four Quarters of the World, who made great the fame of Babylon, etc. (118)

About 1750 BC the chieftains who lived on the east bank of the Tigris began to cross that river and settle themselves on the rich lands in Lower Mesopotamia, and they succeeded in making the natives do their will. Increasing their power gradually, the chieftains made their way to Babylon, and in a comparative short time, Gandash, one of these Kashshu people (commonly called Kassites), made himself king of Babylon and founded the Third or Kassite Dynasty of Babylon. Though they honoured their native gods, and kept their own names, and always retained their chief native customs, they adopted, to their great advantage, much of the civilization of the Babylonians. The King Lists state that the Kassite kings were 36 in number, and that they reigned 576 years, i.e. from about 1746-1171 BC. (118)

2400 BC First Middle East land-empire put together by the Sumerian Lugal Zaggisi with the aid of bronze, the chariot and the phalanx. (135)

2370 BC Empire taken over by the Semite, Sargon of Akkad. Middle East runs out of tin. It is obtained from the tin lands beyond the Mediterranean. Rule then by Sargon's son Menes. It is the Empire of Sumer and Akkad. (135)

2320 BC Middle East ruled by Sargon's illustrious grandson, Nararn-Sin. (135)

1800 BC Political power moves inland to Babylon in Mesopotamia. (135)

The most frequently cited of these upheavals is the rapid demise of Akkadian civilization (in what today is Syria) around 4.2 kya is associated with the onset of an unprecedented dry episode. Only a hundred years before the collapse, Sargon of Akkad had conquered the plains of Mesopotamia, and taken control of the Sumerian city-states, to establish a domain from the Persian Gulf to the headwaters of the Euphrates River. This was the first example of one state conquering other independent societies to form a single entity. When it was done the Akkadian empire controlled a substantial economic system. Trade extended from the silver mines of Anatolia to the lapis lazuli mines in Afghanistan, from the cedar forests of Lebanon to the Gulf of Oman. The empire's bread-basket was in northern Mesopotamia. A string of fortresses was built to control imperial wheat production. To the south, irrigation canals were extended, a new bureaucracy established and palaces and temples built from imperial taxes. This empire lasted less than a hundred years. Evidence from Tell Leilan, in northern Mesopotamia, shows that the site was abandoned suddenly only decades after the city's massive walls had been constructed, its religious quarter renovated and its grain production reorganised. The abandonment began about 4.2 kya. Soil samples from that time showed abundant fine, wind-blown dust, few signs of earthworm activity and much reduced rainfall. All this suggested that the people of Tell Leilan abandoned the site in the face of a sudden shift to a much drier and windier climate. (145)

Well before Hammurabi, a Sumerian ruler of the city­state of Eshnunna (northeast of Babylon) encoded laws that set maximum prices for foodstuffs and for the rental of wagons and boats so that the poor could not be oppressed. There were also laws dealing with offenses against person and property, and regulations pertaining to family matters and to master-servant relations. Even earlier, a code was promulgated by Lipit-Ishtar, a ruler of Isin. The thirty-eight laws that remain legible on the partly preserved tablet (a copy of an original that was engraved on a stone stela) deal with real estate, slaves and servants, marriage and inheritance, the hiring of boats, the rental of oxen, and defaults on taxes. As was done by Hammurabi after him, Lipit-Ishtar explained in the prologue to his code that he acted on the instructions of "the great gods," who had ordered him "to bring well-being to the Sumerians and the Akkadians." (146)

Yet even Lipit-Ishtar was not the first Sumerian law encoder. Fragments of clay tablets that have been found contain copies of laws encoded by Umammu, a ruler of Ur circa 2350 BC--more than half a millennium before Hammurabi, The laws, enacted on the authority of the god Nannar, were aimed at stopping and punishing "the grabbers of the citizens' oxen, sheep, and donkeys" so that "the orphan shall not fall prey to the wealthy, the widow shall not fall prey to the powerful, the man of one shekel shall not fall prey to a man of 60 shekels." Umammu also decreed "honest and unchangeable weights and measurements." The reform decree of Urukagina listed the evils of his time first, then the reforms. The evils consisted primarily of the unfair use by supervisors of their powers to take the best for themselves; the abuse of official status; the extortion of high prices by monopolistic groups. All such injustices, and many more, were prohibited by the reform decree. An official could no longer set his own price "for a good donkey or a house." A "big man" could no longer coerce a common citizen. The rights of the blind, poor, widowed, and orphaned were restated. A divorced woman--nearly 5,000 years ago--was granted the protection of the law. (146)

How long had Sumerian civilization existed that it required a major reform? Clearly, a long time, for Urukagina claimed that it was his god Ningirsu who called upon him "to restore the decrees of former days. The clear implication is that a return to even older systems and earlier laws was called for. The Sumerian laws were upheld by a court system in which the proceedings and judgments as well as contracts were meticulously recorded and preserved. The justices acted more like juries than judges; a court was usually made up of three or four judges, one of whom was a professional "royal judge" and the others drawn from a panel of thirty-six men. (146)

There is no doubt that the Hurrians were Aryan or Indo­European in origin. Their inscriptions invoked several deities by their Vedic "Aryan" names, their kings bore Indo-European names, and their military and cavalry terminology derived from the Indo-European. B. Hrozny, who in the 1920s led an effort to unravel the Hittite and Hurrian records, even went so far as to call the Hurrians "the oldest Hindus." These Hurrians dominated the Hittites culturally and religiously. The Hittite mythological texts were found to be of Hurrian provenance, and even epic tales of prehistoric, semidivine heroes were of Hurrian origin. There is no longer any doubt that the Hittites acquired their cosmology, their "myths," their gods, and their pantheon of twelve from the Hurrians. But since the Akkadian culture and religion were only a development of the original Sumerian traditions and beliefs, the Hurrians, in fact, absorbed and transmitted the religion of Sumer. That this was so was also evident from the frequent use of the original Sumerian divine names, epithets, and writing signs. (146)

c. 3000-2000 BC Continued influence of Anannage/Watchers over the Sumero-Akkadian city-states. This was recorded either as contact with gods and goddesses, generally through the Sacred Marriage ceremony, or through battles with demonic bird-men, like those encountered in the Kutha tablet. Kings descended from the Anannage/Watchers are granted deification, or are looked upon as part-demon. A similar contact takes place in Media and Iran. Final fragmentation of the fallen race. (149)


 There seem to have been no standing armies during most of the Old Kingdom and no economically significant slavery. In some ways the economic system—although highly administered—was as simple redistributive, almost chiefdom-like system, quite different from that of early Mesopotamian states. (47)

Shortly after 2495 BC there was a change in dynasties as well as in the religious and political texture of the Old Kingdom. The worship of the sun god, Ra, emerged as the dominant religion, and the nobility and provincial authorities began to encroach on the king’s authority. (47)

Reconstructing the sociopolitical changes of the Middle Kingdom (c. 2080-1640 BC)—Egypt’s "Classical" period--is a complex matter. In general, the history of the Middle Kingdom contains the same cycles of expansion and collapse that can be seen in all the great ancient empires. Periods of well-regulated trade, prosperity, and brilliance in art, architecture, and literature were punctuated by periods of revolution, poverty, and political fragmentation. The Middle Kingdom originated in the great civil unrest of the twenty-first century BC, when, according to a contemporary account:

[Grain] has perished everywhere…People are stripped of clothing, perfume, and oil…Everyone says, "There is no more."…Strangers have come into Egypt everywhere…Men do not sail to Byblos today: What shall we do for fine wood? Princes and pious men everywhere as far as the land of Crete are embalmed with the resins of Lebanon, but now we have no supplies…The dead are thrown in the river…laughter has perished. Grief walks the land.

In the face of this turmoil, successive rulers sought to increase national integration while directing defense and trade along increasingly active frontiers. The Eleventh Dynasty pharaoh Nebhepetre’ Mentuhotpe (c. 2161-2010 BC) and hi8s immediate successors of the Eleventh Dynasty reunited the country. He and his successors of the Eleventh and Twelfth Dynasties reorganized the country with considerable energy, undertaking expeditions into Nubia, Libya, and Syria, reopening trade routes to the Red Sea, and commencing again the construction of monumental buildings. (47)

At about 1640 BC Asiatic people captured Memphis, and the Hyksos king adopted the trapings of Egyptian royalty. Artifacts made in the Hyksos manner have been found all along the Nile Valley and as far south as Karnak, but it is not clear how directly they were able to control most of the population. The skull of a ruler of southern Egypt, Seqenenre' Ta'o II (c. ruled at about 1600 BC) bears the imprint of a western Asiatic-type battle ax, and there are other evidences of frequent conflict between Egyptians and Asiatics along the eastern Delta border.

The hated Asiatics were largely expelled from Egypt by Pharaoh Ahmose I (c. 1550-1525 BC) who ushered in a new age of political unity.

By the mid-fifteenth century BC Egypt probably had a population of many millions of people, whose governmental institutions, religion, language, economy, and most other aspects of life were probably remarkably like those of their ancestors during all of the preceding 2000 years. This great weight of tradition must be considered when analyzing Egyptian history. Time and time again Egypt would fragment under revolt and invasion, but the ancient order would always persist and reform. (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)

In order to accomplish this, they also had to be well organized and motivated and possess administrative skill and wealth. The Giza development was an enormous, multigenerational public project, which was the largest, most ambitious, and longest-term construction program in the history of mankind. The massive project included all facets of civil engineering, architecture, surveying, personnel, and materials management. There also would have had to be a leadership so effective that the undertaking of such an immense program, and all the personal sacrifices required, would have been possible to sustain. (70)

Around 2000 BC, Egypt entered the period of the Middle Kingdom. As the Anunnakis withdrew from the picture, the pharaohs changed the definition of the basis of their authority. They continued to claim the powers of gods but also stressed they personally were descended from the gods and, as if to further shore up their authority, promised that the gods would return. By 3,500 years ago, Egypt was in decline. The peak of pharaonic power, the end of the New Kingdom, was fading in Thebes under the leadership of Amenhotep III. (113)

The earliest Sumerian and Egyptian representational sculptures and drawings include individuals holding scepters, staves with ankhs, varied crosses or helicoids, cups, and incense burners. Officious-looking figures wear elaborate robes, girded with decorative belts or aprons, conical hats with various flaps and distinctive symbols, and special necklaces. These personages frequently surround an enthroned individual or someone with other symbols of power. In other scenes they appear to be performing ceremonies around a table or altar. The best documentation of this priestly function comes from west Asian cylinder seals, figurines, and fragments of sculpture, and from paintings of the early Egyptian Pharaonic period four to five millennia ago. These depictions show ruling figures separated from the ordinary workers by a corps of retainers. (113)

1800 BC Political power moves inland to Thebes in Egypt. 1700 BC Egypt ruled by Shepherd Kings from Canaan, the sun-worshipping. (135)

Indus Valley

Not only did the Indus Valley cultures mature many centuries later than those in Egypt and Southwest Asia, they also neglected to leave much in the way of the pyramids, tombs, and palaces so prized by archaeologists. Nor was the Harappan a particularly long-lived civilization; it appeared and disappeared within the space of about five centuries.

The Indus Valley cultures are of great interest for the study of the origins of cultural complexity for several reasons: (1) Harappan civilization may have appeared very rapidly, with a highly urbanized society developing out of a rather simple one in perhaps as little as 100-150 years; (2) they constructed massive cities with perhaps the most advanced sense of town planning and provision of city services (e.g., a municipal water and sewage system) in the ancient world until the advent of the Romans; (3) their area of cultural and political influence and control extended over almost 1.3 million square kilometers—considerably more territory than any other Old World civilization of this period; (4) Harappan culture over this large area appears very homogenous, compared to Mesopotamia; and (5) the Indus cities seem to have a very equitable distribution of wealth—even a degree of primitive socialism, perhaps—in an era when other comparable civilizations were highly stratified groupings of a few extraordinarily wealthy and powerful nobles and priests supported by tens of thousands of peasants. (48)

In the Indus area the sites that date to the mature Harappan period (after about 2600 BC) include three relatively huge communities (c. eighty-five hectares). These cities—Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, and Ganwariwala—are evenly spaced, as we would expect on the basis of locational theory of state-level settlement patterns, but there are also clusters of sites in other size categories. …the population in the region appears to have more than tripled between about 3200 and 2600 BC. In addition, more remote areas, such as the Kuli complex in Baluchistan, were brought into the Harappan cultural sphere. Betrween 3000 and 2400 BC, settlements appeared at Kot Diji, Harappa,Kalibangan, and elsewhere, perhaps founded by people moving in from the western highlands. The few excavated settlements of this period reveal simple mudbrick houses in small villages scattered in areas where no extensive irrigation would have been necessary. Some villages were walled, though there was certainly no shortage of land or pressure on other resources at this time. These various lowland settlements prior to 2600 BC show some stylistic uniformity and a great deal of economically and politically independent and self-sufficient, and reflect none of the rigid planning typical of later settlements here.(48)

…until about 2600 BC few of the communities found in the Harappan area have much evident public architecture. But after 2600 BC the major Harappan cities are marked by large buildings, such as “citadels” and “warehouses,” and by differences in residential structures that probably correlate with wealth and status.

Harappan communities extracted minerals, metals, animal products, and many other commodities from the surrounding foothills and mountains, and circulated these not only through local and regional trade, but also with Mesopotamian states via the sea lanes of the Persian Gulf. Gold, silver, copper, carnelian, lapis lazuli, ivory, oils, an many other commodities probably flowed west from the Indus to Mesopotamian towns, most of which were located far from natural sources of these exotic goods. But the Mesopotamians could reciprocate with cereals, leather, wool, and other products of their prolific agricultural system.

The pattern of trade we infer between Harappan and Mesopotamian civilizations included some useful functional items, but much was in the form of exotics such as gold, whose most direct use was in reinforcing and elaborating the social distinctions between elites and commoners.

The appearance of large cities shortly after 2600 BC, and the associated spread of a distinctive constellation of artifacts and architectural styles over much of the Indus Valley, marked the emergence of Harappan civilization. This political system survived only about five hundred years, but managed to integrate much of the Indus Plain in a political and cultural unit.

The largest Harappan settlement, Mohenjo-daro, covers at least 2.5 square kilometers and may have had 40,000 inhabitants. M. Jansen has argued that Mohenjo-daro was not so regularly constructed as archaeologists once thought, and that only the central “platform mound” area (about 100 hectares) of the city was planned—although there were many more hectares of suburban unplanned residential areas around the main city center. Compared to the jumbled anarchy of most Mesopotamian city plans, however, Mohenjo-daro was quite orderly. (48)

One of the most interesting structures on the high mound itself is the “Great Bath,” a swimming-pool-like building about 12 by 7 meters and 2.5 meters in depth with a sunken enclosure, constructed of baked bricks and lined with bitumen. Flanking the pool are what appear to have been dressing rooms, carefully staggered to give maximum privacy. The Great Bath may have figured in some religious activities, but it contained no obvious icons or other religious elements and may have been mainly just a public bathing facility. (48)

The Harappan urbanites and hunter-gatherers probably not only co-existed, they probably continually trading products, with such things as copper knives, pottery, and steatite beads from Harappan communities, while hunter-gatherers supplied stone, meat, beeswax, wood, charcoal, string, rope, reeds, etc. The Harappan population at the beginning of the second millennium BC probably totaled at least 200,000 people, and the tightly organized fabric of their lives suggests perhaps an empire-like political system, but we may never know how complex the socioeconomic and political institutions of this culture were. (48)

Two sites dominate the contemporary Indian archeological scene, Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, in what is today western Pakistan, and so trying to reach back to the Dravidians/Nagas/Dasyus across more than 4000 years, I naturally turned to them. The ruins have been systematically excavated since the 1930s. I, therefore, could get a clear picture of exactly what they had been. Only looking over the sites, the very systematic laying out of the streets, the drains, the granaries, baths, towers, forts, and walls, I realized I wasn't looking at anything that paralleled the sinuous, serpentine exuberance and vitality of the Nagas. The Nagas were "oriental"; there was nothing plain, pragmatic, or utilitarian about them, but the Indus Valley people were. They were commercial minds; there was nothing sacred about their cities...The sameness of the Indus Valley and Mesopotamian civilizations was unmistakable. They were all of a piece. They were the businesssmen, the "calculators" of the ancient world. (120)

1500 BC Destruction of Indus civilisation by Aryans, using iron. (135)

Scholars believe that sometime in the second millennium BC a people speaking an Indo-European language, and centered in northern Iran or the Caucasus area, embarked on great migrations. One group went southeast, to India. The Hindus called them Aryans ("noble men"). They brought with them the Vedas as oral tales, circa 1500 BC. Another wave of this Indo-European migration went westward, to Europe. Some circled the Black Sea and arrived in Europe via the steppes of Russia. But the main route by which these people and their traditions and religion reached Greece was the shortest one: Asia Minor. Some of the most ancient Greek cities, in fact, lie not on the Greek mainland but at the western tip of Asia Minor. (146)


 At about 1800 BC, just a century or so after Hammurabi had established a great empire in Southwest Asia, the people of North China began a period of development that was to take them from simple agricultural tribes to one of the most brilliant and complex civilizations of antiquity. But because scientific archaeology in China is only a few decades old and has been interrupted by wars and revolution, we still see only the broad outlines of these developments. (49)

In the early third millennium BC, the people of North and central China--at least on the basis of our limited archaeological evidence--seem the very picture of egalitarian, peaceful villagers; but by the beginning of the second millennium BC, signs of social rank and violence are everywhere. (49)

...the archaeological record indicates rapidly increasing social complexity after c. 2400 BC, with the emergence of the Longshan and relate cultures. Longshan cultures, like the Yangshao, are defined on the basis of similar styles of artifacts--in the Longshan case by highly burnished, wheel made, thick-walled black pottery in many different vessel forms; these pots are found with minor stylistic variations, from the southeastern coast of China to the northern provinces. (49)

As with the Yangshao, the Longshan peoples lived mainly in villages made up of pit houses arranged around a central "long house," and virtually every Longshan adult male was probably still a millet farmer who supplemented the family fortunes with hunting, collecting, and part-time craft production of pottery, jade, or another commodity. (49)

Based on an analysis of pig skulls in burials at several Neolithic sites, Seung-Og Kim has argued that pigs were used as important status and wealth markers. Pigs were supremely adapted to Neolithic Chinese agriculture. Kim found that the Chinese Neolithic graves with the most wealth in the form of ivory and jade ornaments, pottery, and other goods also, on average, had more pig skulls and carved pig tusks in them. Kim argues that between about 4000 and 2000 BC the elites in many Chinese communities used pigs as "concentratable and productive internal wealth in order to establish political authority." (49)

After about 2000 BC, large towns and cities began to replace or emerge from the tens of thousands of villages that marked earlier, simpler times. During the second millennium BC China really became "China," in the sense that this period marked the first widespread use of the distinctively Chinese forms of writing, architecture, art, and ideology. Also during this period all the correlates of cultural complexity, such as monumental architecture, large population concentrations, occupational specialization, written records, gross differences in wealth, power, and prestige, and large public-works projects, appeared in full measure.

The richness of Erh-li-t'ou's jade, bronze, pottery, and other artifacts, the indications of human sacrifice, and the large buildings all suggest a level of emerging cultural complexity greater than that of previous periods. The Middle Shang phase (or Erh-li-kang phase) is best documented archaeologically at the cluster of settlements largely buried under the modern city of Zhengzhou. The central area of the site is thought to have been the residence and ceremonial center of the ruling elite, and around it were thousands of pit houses, animal pens, shops, storage pits, and other features that make it clear that many of the people of Shang China lived lives radically different from those of Neolithic times. Hundreds of skilled, fulltime craftsmen probably resided at Zhengzhou. (49)

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)

Civilization had arrived slowly and painfully in China. The great plain was isolated from the surrounding regions by high mountains and swampy, uninhabitable land. The climate was harsh, with broiling summers and icy winters, when settlements were attacked by freezing, sand-laden winds. The Yellow River was difficult to navigate and prone to flooding. The early settlers had to cut canals to drain the marshland and build dikes to stop the floods from ruining the crops. The Chinese had no historical memory of the people who had created these ancient works, but they told stories of the feudal kings who had ruled the Chinese empire before the Xia, and made the countryside habitable. Huang-Di, the Yellow Emperor, had fought a monster and fixed the courses of the sun, moon, and stars. Shen Nong had invented agriculture, and in the twenty-third century, the wise emperors Yao and Shun had established a golden age of peace and prosperity. (158)


 No area of the world has contributed more to world civilization than the Mediterranean Basin, especially in the form of Greek science, arts, and letters. But throughout the history of this region it also seems to have been the most fractious, with at least a 5000 year history of warfare and resistance to political unification. Some of the communities of later third millennium BC seem to have been redistributive centers for the towns and villages around them, but for the most part this was an era of hundreds of small and competitive cities. (50)

By about 1900 BC the many small towns and villages on Crete seem to have become linked increasingly into a state-level political, economic, and religious system. (50)

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)

Domestic horses and camels were in use by the mid-second millennium BC in much of this area, and with the addition of two-wheeled carts, the development of a diet based on milk products rather than meat, and the emergence of an aggressive chiefdom-like command structure, Eurasian nomads terrorized Europe and sacked China time and time again. (50)

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)

Crete by the end of the second millennium was an island of ninety cities and of many nations. For a period it possessed the most important merchant marine in the world and was as polyglot as any busy port today. (135)

These societies were in some measure cultural outposts, on the periphery of the great Semitic civilisation of the Middle East. Greece itself was subject to the great Amorite-Phoenician power from 1930-1600 BC. The economic and administrative methods of Bronze Age Greece had parallels in every detail with either the Near East or Egypt or both of them. There was very tight administration over the population. (135)

Atlas was called by Hesiod the son of Japetus, or a white man, Pliny called him the son of Libya. In the second millennium the Atlas people were seemingly white Africans from North Africa and the Canary Islands, with lodgments on both sides of the Mediterranean. (135)

1900 BC Arrival of first Greeks into Greece. (135)

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)

There is now general agreement that the foundations of the distinct Greek civilization were laid on the island of Crete, where the Minoan culture flourished from circa 2700 BC to 1400 BC. (146)

Scholars believe that sometime in the second millennium BC a people speaking an Indo-European language, and centered in northern Iran or the Caucasus area, embarked on great migrations. One group went southeast, to India. The Hindus called them Aryans ("noble men"). They brought with them the Vedas as oral tales, circa 1500 BC. Another wave of this Indo-European migration went westward, to Europe. Some circled the Black Sea and arrived in Europe via the steppes of Russia. But the main route by which these people and their traditions and religion reached Greece was the shortest one: Asia Minor. Some of the most ancient Greek cities, in fact, lie not on the Greek mainland but at the western tip of Asia Minor. (146)

South America 

Once the Andean coast was fairly thickly settled, people here, like those in Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and other early developmental centers, began building monumental architecture. It is absurd to think that people generally have some innate desire to build big stone buildings, but in Andean South America, too, no sooner had people devised economies of some reasonable reliability and richness than they began "wasting" massive amounts of their wealth in temples, tombs, and pyramids.

In the second millennium people in dozens of communities along the coast began to build impressive stone buildings and complexes of plazas, sunken pits, courts, truncated pyramids, and other large and formally arranged architecture.

…the principal mounds at both El Paraiso and another coastal site, Piedra Parada, are oriented to north 25 degrees east. This orients the sites toward the NE and SW maxima of the Milky Way, and the axis perpendicular to this orientation is directed to the rising of the sun at the Summer Solstice (December) in the east and the setting of the sun at the Winter Solstice (June), as calculated for the years ca. [1450 BC]…This suggests that the astrocosmological concepts known to have been important for the Inka were established in Preceramic times. The outer stone walls of El Paraiso were faced with clay and then painted; like the ancient Egyptians, Maya, Greeks, and others, people of El Paraiso painted their monumental buildings in primary colors. (52)

When we look at mortuary practices, for example, the small amount of very sketchy evidence we have shows a certain formalization of burial practices and some elaboration of them, but there's no clear evidence of massive disparities in wealth, power, or prestige. ...insofar as the scanty evidence indicates, while these people traded products and evolved common ideologies, these communities were not functionally integrated to any great extent. Several small communities probably came together to build El Paraiso, but there is little evidence of functional specialization within and among communities. (52)

I believed that bondage and slavery were likely to have been the key to Tiahuanaco's fall. The megalithic world of Tiahuanaco had been built the way Babylon and Egypt had been built: on a broad socioeconomic base of slavery. The Incas were the last emigrating thrust of this slave-state, and they in turn reestablished their own kind of slave-state, with the sun at the center and themselves as sun-kings, directly descended from their sun lord. They were benevolent, divine-right kings, a logical extension of the kind of theocratic state that had been founded at Tiahuanaco in the first place. (120)

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)

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)

After the fall of Akkad, we may surmise that Bolivia and Peru would have became politically separated from the Old world if the Amorite­Phoenician alliance had not taken over. The Atlantic trade persisted therefore, principally, but not solely down the Amazon, in copper and tin as well as gold and silver. The early Phoenicians, during the hegemony of the Amorites, provided this second wave. (135)


 Like many other cultures, the Maya rationalized and justified the great inequities of wealth, power, and prestige in their society by setting these inequities in a divine context. The king and his relatives deserved their wealth and power because the king was the pinnacle of the population and it was through him that contact could be made with the sacred, the Otherworld. Every Maya, from highest to lowest, benefited from the king’s intercession with the divine world, and they all shared in the material wealth that the king provided the community through successful performance of his powers. (51)

But by means of their ideology, the Maya in a sense invented a civilization. In terms of their technology the Maya never advanced much past that of any Neolithic farming culture, but…they invented ideas that harnessed social energy…they invented political symbols that transformed and coordinated such age-old institutions as the extended family, the village, the shaman, and the patriarch into the stuff of civilized life. (51)

...the beginnings of a distinctive Olmec tradition are evident by 1700 BC. ...Olmec is best seen as a set of closely interacting, autonomous societies located in the southern Gulf lowlands during the Early and Middle Formative periods, which shared more similarities with one another in artifact styles and iconography than with more distant regions. The development of complex social ranking, then, was a prominent, but not universal, characteristic of these societies. The growing volume of settlement pattern data from Olman implies considerable variation in political organization during the Early Formative period. The last centuries of the period saw the development of hierarchical political systems with two to three levels of administration in the riverine and estuarine settings of eastern Olman and the southern Tuxtlas piedmont. In the uplands of the western Tuxtla Mountains, however, communities appear to have been more mobile, and hierarchical administrative formations did not become institutionalized until much later. ...the archaeological evidence for warfare among the Olmecs is notable for its scarcity and ambiguity. (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)

North America