History Before 1,600 BC Research Papers Examples
The earliest written records of mankind was believed to have started around 3,000 BC, and are found in three places: in the Nile Valley, in Mesopotamia, and in the Indus Valley. Of these three forms of writing, only the first two can be read. Before 3,000 BC, archeologists can trace man’s story only by digging up the objects he has left behind: his tools and weapons, fragmentary remains of the houses he lived in, the vessel in which he stored his food, the bones of animals he hunted or domesticated, his ornaments and those of his womenfolk. These can be dated only approximately from the levels at which they were found.
On a site which has been more or less continuously occupied for several thousand years, the objects found at the lowers levels are obviously older than those found in the upper strata. Many such sites exist in the Middle East, especially in Mesopotamia and Syria. In some of these occupation layers exist far below the level at which the earliest written documents have been found. Since it is known that writing has begun at the beginning of the third millennium, the lower levels clearly antedate this period.
Childe noted that the history of man began in an era he called “The Urban Revolution.” This was a time when mean first began to live in large settled communities, the period of the earliest civilizations. He writes that the thousand or so years preceding 3,000 BC “were perhaps more fertile in fruitful inventions and discoveries than any period in human history prior to the sixteenth century AD. Its achievements made possible that economic reorganization of society” that he called urban revolution.
The innovations included the making of bricks for building, the construction of the potter’s wheel, wheeled transport, the sailing ship, and the harnessing of domestic animals for transport and haulage. But the most important discovery was the metallurgy of copper and bronze. Before this discovery, man had to rely for his tools and weapons mainly on stone, hence those familiar but those convenient labels, Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) and New Stone Age (Neolithic). In Asia, axes, flint knives, flint spearheads, and so on were found. Stone weapons were used for hunting, fighting and for cutting up the skins and flesh of animals. Stones were used to cultivate the land, bone sickles set with flint teeth to reap the crops.
Such tools continued to be used for millennia after the properties of the metals were discovered; in fact, in some parts of the world they are still used today. But by 3,000 BC, man learned that copper could be reduced from ores, that it could be fused by heat and then cast in molds, and, once set, could be given a cutting edge as hard as that of a flint. Such tools and weapons gave man who owned them greatly increased powers over nature, and in warfare, superiority over peoples not equipped.
In ancient times, civilization bloomed in the following areas of the world, which historians and archeologists call the “Cradles of Civilization”: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Crete, India, China, Asia Minor, Palestine, Persia, Guatemala-Yucatan Peninsula, and the Tropical Africa.
Mesopotamia was hailed as the birthplace of civilization. It was there where the world’s first civilization dawned about 3,500 BC.
Mesopotamia, the Cradle of History
Mesopotamia (now Iraq) means “Land Between Two Rivers.” It is a huge valley of the twin rivers—Tigris and Euphrates—which flow from the Armenian Highlands into the Persian Gulf. This region forms part of the famous “Fertile Crescent,” which is wide belt of fertile land of crescent shape, stretching from Iran (Persia) to the Mediterranean Coast. Because of its strategic location, fertile soil, and favorable climate, Mesopotamia became the birthplace of history and civilization (Duiker and Spielvogel, 8).
Sumerians, First Builders of Civilization. Shortly after 4,000 BC, the farming tribes of from the Iranian mountains settled in the southern part of Mesopotamia. These tribesmen, called Sumerians were the first inhabitants of Mesopotamia.
The Sumerians established independent city states, each ruled by a priest-king. The cultivated the fertile land and tamed the floods of the twin rivers by constructing canals and dikes as drainage. During the dry season, they utilized the river waters to irrigate their farms. About 3,500 BC, they invented writing, which enabled them to keep written records inscribed on baked clay tablets. Their writing was called cuneiform because of its wedge-shaped characters. With the Sumerian invention of writing, man’s historic period began. Sumerians also invented the plow and the wheel. They built the first cities, the first schools and temples, and wrote the first books. They also wrote the first law codes, which was promulgated by Ur-Nammu, Sumerian king of the city-state of Ur, c2,500 BC.
The Sumerians were also the first cartographers, as they were responsible for the first-known city map—that of Nippur, which was drawn in 1,500 BC. The Sumerians were also the first people in the world to mix copper and tin, thereby producing bronze, a metal which is harder and more durable than copper (Roberts and Vestad, 51).
Scientific knowledge among the Sumerians was advanced. They studied the stars to make sure that they could safely navigate the Persian Gulf. They divided the zodiac into 12 signs, and were able to foretell the eclipses of the sun and moon. They divided the years into 12 months, each month consisting of 30 days, or four weeks with seven days each. Since the Sumerian calendar lacked five days, correcting was made by adding an extra month.
The Sumerians were also responsible for inventing the sundial to tell the hours of the day. It is interesting to note that a day for them consisted of only 12 hours. They invented the water clock to tell the hours of the night; also measures the length, weight and capacity. Talent was called the standard unit of weight and there were 60 minas in the talent, each mina weighing nearly 1 1/3 pounds.
The Sumerians also adopted 60 as the unit of calculation. With this unit, they divided the hour into 60 minutes, the minutes into 60 seconds and the circle into 360 degrees By 2,300 BC, the Sumerians devised multiplication tables and tables of squares and cubes. They also devised tables for weights and measures and formula to determine the areas of triangles.
It was also the Sumerians who pioneered in brick architecture as the abundance of mud in the area made it the primary material used in building temples, houses and buildings. It was also the Sumerians who laid the first basis for commercial law and the foundation of business organization.
Egypt: The Gift from Nile
Because of its favorable geographic location, Egypt became a cradle of civilization. It is protected by natural barriers, being bounded in the north by the Mediterranean Sea, in the west by the Great Dessert, in the east by the Red Sea, and in the south by the high mountains. For this favorable location, Egypt has become an important trading center in eastern Mediterranean. The Nile serves as the highway for commerce within its territory and to the Mediterranean (Upshur, et al., 25).
The Egyptians made great advances in agriculture because they had learned the use of the plow. Hand in hand with the plow was the extensive use of animal power. Egyptians were among the first shipbuilders in the world. Their ships ferried Egypt’s exports to the countries of Asia Minor and to the islands of the Mediterranean Sea. Merchants from Arabia, Mesopotamia, and Persia came to Egypt by ship and camel caravan to sell their wares and buy Egyptian cereals (Kahn, 70).
The ancient Egyptians introduced the form of writing called hieroglyphics, which means sacred signs because only priests and scribes could write them. They wrote on paper made of papyrus reed. The Egyptians also devised an alphabet of 24 letters, which many believes is where the Roman alphabet has been derived.
In the field of literature, the Egyptian texts inscribed in tombs and pyramids constitute the oldest forms of literatures in the world.
The Egyptians were also the first people to develop geometry because they needed to rebuild the land boundaries erased by the annual flood of the River Nile.
Egypt also increased man’s knowledge on medicine, surgery and embalming. The embalmed corpses (mummies) of the pharaohs have lasted for thousands of years.
The Egyptians also gained knowledge of astronomy through forecasting and proper planning in the timing in the planting of seasonal crops. Their practice in water or flood control gave them knowledge in hydraulics. The Egyptians also developed a system of weights and measures. They had knowledge of decimal system, anatomy and simple surgery.
The Hittites: The First Nation to Use Iron
Little is known about the Hittites because their history is shrouded in mystery. Their greatest contribution, however, was the use of iron, which enabled mankind to progress from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. They were the first people in the history to mine, smelt and use iron in making tools and weapons. Another contribution to civilization was the use of horse drawn chariots in warfare (Cambridge University Press, 251).
The centuries preceding 1,600 BC is crucial in the history of man as he passed through different stages in development. The ancient man had to toil ceaselessly in order to live. With crude tools and few domesticated animals, man managed to build villages and till the soil. Villages eventually grew into towns, towns into cities and cities into kingdoms. On the very moment that man decided to learn to live with his fellows, civilization began. No other contribution to civilization could excel in importance the invention of language by man. Without it, all others would deem practically impossible. Then followed the establishment of society, the domestication of plants and animals, and the many other inventions and discoveries of the modern man. We are today heavily indebted to the peoples of the ancient East for the beginnings of our civilization. Some important facts that should be remembered always about these contributions are:
Development of Nations. We have seen how men of the ancient East learned to live together to work for their common welfare. It was in the Orient where men first lived in groups, which became the basis of the family and of the clan. The clan then grew into tribes, and tribes into villages and communities, and communities into states or nations.
Development of Governments. We have seen how ancient people learned to make rules and regulations so that they could live successfully together. Ancient civilizations erected cities, kingdoms and empires, and they evolved laws to govern justly and uniform their people.
Development of Religion. Among the earliest people, worship of nature was a common belief. Moon, sun, star, heaven, ocean, sea, and earth were the common objects of their worship. Eventually, the belief in polytheism or many gods was discredited and the belief in one god of polytheism took its place.
Development of Science. Much of what we know today of mathematics, astronomy, geography, engineering, surveying and medicine we owe to the peoples of the ancient east.
Development of communication. It was the ancient people who started to improve communications. They built roads, invented the alphabet, and devised a system of coinage to make it easier to exchange goods and trade with one another.
Duiker, William and Spielvogel, Jackson. The Essential World History. Boston, Ma: Cengage, 2011.
Kahn, Charles. World History: Societies of the Past. Winnipeg, Canada: Portage & Main Press, 2005.
Roberts, John Morris and Westad, Odd Arne. The History of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
The Cambridge Ancient History, edited by I. E. S. Edwards, C. J. Gadd, N. G. L. Hammond, E. Sollberger. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973.
Upshur, Jiu-Hwa, et al. Cengage Advantage Books: World History. Boston, Ma: Cengage, 2012.
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