Chapter 1: Stone Age Societies and Civilizations of the Near East


1) PRE-HUMANS, proto-humans, hominids, evolved 3.5 mil to 40,000 yrs ago
--Australopithecus 3.5 mil yrs ago, Lucy, Ethiopia
--Homo habilis 1.75 yrs ago, 1st rep of genus homo, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania
--Homo erectus 300,000 yrs ago, first to migrate, Java, Peking Man, used fire, hand ax
--Neanderthals 200,000-40,000 yrs ago, “cave men,” yet buried their dead
--Cro-Magnon 40,000 yrs ago, cave painting,1st Homo sapiens.
Humans= Homo sapiens. Today there is only of species of the genus Homo, us.

2) PRE-LITERATE CULTURES (pre-writing/reading)
culture = based on symbolic thought that can be transmitted from person to person, generation to generation LANGUAGE

Social Organization: simple, small-scale, egalitarian (not class-based), based on kin and tribe

Economic Organization: simple, everyone does the same job: surviving. Before the Agricultural Revolution, Paleolithic and Mesolithic Strone-Age socities are hunting and gathering their food. After the Agri Rev, Neolithic Stone-Age Socities are producing their own food (agriculture).

Political Organization: simple, small-scale societies ruled by tribal elders

Technology: stone tools, fire and later pottery, farming

Religion: animism, fertility goddesses

--Paleolithic, Old Stone Age, eoliths (primitive stone tools) pre-10,000 BCE

--Mesolithic (transitional) 10,000 BCE domesticated the dog

Both Paleolithic and Mesolithic cultures are hunter-gatherers.
The transition from food GATHERING to food PRODUCTION around 7000 BCE is what marks the beginning of

--Neolithic, New Stone Age, domesticated crops & animals, pottery, better stone tools
One of the largest Neolithic (pre-city, proto-city) settlements was Catal Huyuk, 6800 BCE, town in Anatolia (Turkey) 1st town map

AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION = farming, the domestication of plants & animals, food production, potential for food surplus, food surplus will be the be key to human history and the beginning of civilization because food surplus supports economic specialists (people who do things other than farm)



3) 1st CIVILZATIONS 3000 BCE - 500 CE (roughly)

Social Organization: complex, urban, hierarchical, class based, affiliation not just with kin or tribe but with institutions

Economic Organization: complex, more than just agriculture and simple crafts but economic specialization (people specialize in trade, military, religious, & political institutions)

Political Organization: complex, urban cities and city-states become large, centralized empires under the control of a single state based on a king but run by a bureaucracy and supported by a military

Technology: Bronze Age, river control (irrigation), MONUMENRAL ARCHITECTURE, WRITING?, record keeping (important for large-scale agriculture, long distance trade, bureaucratic adminstration of large states so 1st civilizations developed calendars, astronomy, mathematics)

Religion: centralized temples (political, economic, social function), monotheism?

Mesopotamia (between 2 rivers, Tigris, Euphrates) present day Iraq, 3200-1600 BCE

Sumer: 3000 BCE in this region of the southern part of Mesopotamia, Sumarians developed the first city-states centered around large temples called ziggurats, key cities: Uruk and Ur

2300 BCE Sargon I of Akkad (a northern region of Mesopotamia) conquered the city-states and founded the world's first empire

Scribes kept records of these complex cities using the world's first system of writing, cuneiform, around 2000 BCE the Sumerians produced the the world's first literature The Epic of Gilgamesh (an epic poem written in cuneiform on clay tablets based on the adventures of Gilgamesh who was the king of Uruk around 2700 BCE)

Babylon: King Hammurabi created an empire with Babylon (formerly Akkad) as its capital, around 1700 BCE created Code of Hammurabi = first written code of law (based on principle an eye for an eye, except if the crime crosses the social hierarchy, most crimes demand the death sentence) written in cuneiform on stone stele (steely) placed in public centers. Old Babylonia was a highly centralized empire held together not only with the written law code but also taxation and involuntary military service.

"Old Babylonia" controlled by Amorites like Hammuurabi was subsequnetly conquered and controlled by various groups (e.g. the Hittites, the Assyrians) for centuries. Then a second or "New Babylonian" period emerged under the Chaldeans and their most famous ruler, Nebuchadnezzar (600 BC) who took neighboring Hebrews into captivity and thus began the Jewish exile or diaspora. Under Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon once again became the most highly developed city in that part of the word.

See sections on Phoenicians and Hebrews in chapter.

The great empires of Mesopotamia came to an end with the conquest of Cyrus the Great from Persia (today Iran) around 500BC. Cyrus liberated Babylon's exiled Jews and helped the Persians to create the largest and most powerful empire in history up to that point, from Egypt to India. (Around 500 BC Egypt was also conquered by the Persians. Around 300 BCE this land was be conquered by Alexander the Great and then by the the Romans in the 1st century AD.)


Egypt 3100-300 BCE

Along the Nile River, one of the greatest and longest lasting human civilizations (3000 years long) was established when Menes united upper and lower Egypt in 3100 BCE. It was an African civilization which fed off cultures to the south, the west, the east, and eventually, the north. At times it was the greatest power in the world; at other times, the Egyptians were dominated by foreign powers. As god-king of Egypt, the pharaoh and his relatives owned lots of land (often granted to temples, royal funerary cults, private persons) and received agricultural surplus from crops on huge royal estates.  This agricultural surplus supported a large core of specialists, administrators, priests, scribes, artists, artisans, and merchants in Egypt who labored in service to the pharaoh.  People’s welfare was thought to rest on absolute devotion to the god-king. Around 700 BCE Egypt was conquered by Nubia's King Piye. Around 500 BCE Egpt was conquered by Persia's Cyrus the Great. Around 300 BCE, Egypt was conquered by Macedonia's Alexander the Great.

Historians divide dynastic Egypt into the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, the New Kingdom: some of the greatest pharoahs from the New Kingdom are Hatshepsut, Amenhotep III, Akhenaton (who was married to Nefertiti), Tutankhamen, Ramses II. There are more details about them in the chapter. Major cities in Egypt included Memphis and Thebes.



South of Egypt along the Nile River in Africa, where the modern state of Sudan is today, kingdoms like Nubia and Kush developed complex, sophisticated civilizations. Though these states (Nubia and Egypt) were indepdenent from onc another, Nubians intermarried with the Egyptians' royal family and formed parts of Egypt's military and administration, Nubia took over Egypt at one point (during the 25th dynasty during the New Kingdom, King Piye conquered Egypt) they traded with, battled with, and intermarried with Egyptians to the North and other African societies to the South. Sudanic civilizations pioneered the domestication of cattle and wheat, metallurgy, and excelled in pottery. Nubian culture formed a bridge between Sudanic cultures further south and west and Egypt. Major cities in Nubia included Kerma, Napatha, and Meroe.