After thousands of years of living as a nomadic, hunter-gatherer species, there came a time when humans learned to work the land and domesticate animals in order to stay in one place. This allowed the first civilizations to form, which consisted of groups of people working together to live in the first-ever societies. As time passed, these small civilizations grew and evolved to become incredibly advanced and thriving empires that there is still evidence of today. Take a look to see which of them are the oldest and what made them so impressive.
Mesopotamia Was Where Civilization Began
Regarded as the first civilization to emerge from human history, the Mesopotamian civilization was located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers around what is today modern Iraq, Kuwait, parts of Syria, and Turkey. The region is known for its fertile land, making it an excellent place to begin practicing early forms of agriculture and animal domestication dating back to 10,000 BC.
Mesopotamia is also known for “inspiring some of the most important developments in human history, including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops, and the development of a cursive script, mathematics, astronomy, and agriculture.”
The Indus Valley Civilization Had Highly Complex Cities
The Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization, was a Bronze Age civilization that lasted from 3,300 BC to 13,000 BC. Alongside ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was one of three early civilizations in the regions of North Africa West Asia and South Asia.
Of the three, it was the most widespread, ranging from northeast Afghanistan through Pakistan, and even parts of India. The Indus Valley cities are regarded for its complex urban planning, with some of the larger cities being home to up to 60,000 people.
The Incan Empire Was Beyond Massive
The Incan Empire was the largest pre-Columbian empire in South America. It was located in present-day Ecuador, Peru, and Chile, with its epicenter being in Cusco, which is in Peru. Although there were many forms of worship, the Incas encouraged the worship of the sun god Inti, and believed that their king, the Sapa Inca, was the “sun of the sun.”
However, the Incas are also known for lacking many features of older civilizations, such as the use of the wheel, a writing system, iron, and steel, yet still managed to build one of the greatest empires in human history. They left behind many architectural wonders such as Machu Picchu and the city of Cusco.
Jiahu Was A Small But Complex Settlement
Jiahu was the location of a Neolithic settlement of ancient China near the Yellow River. Upon its discovery, archaeologists have claimed that the settlement is one of the earliest examples of the Peilgang culture. The settlement was founded around 7000 BC, although it was eventually flooded and abandoned around 5700 BC.
Regarded as a “complex, highly organized Chinese Neolithic society,” it is believed to have had anywhere between 250 and 800 inhabitants. At the site, archeologists have uncovered symbols that appear to be examples of proto-writing, and what is believed to be some of the oldest playable instruments and earliest types of wine.
Aboriginal Australians Might Be The Oldest Civilization On The Planet
Although many people claim that Mesopotamia is the oldest civilization in history, some researchers argue that Aboriginal Australians hold that title. Aboriginal Australians are the various indigenous people of the Australian mainland and its surrounding islands such as Tasmania, Fraser Island, Hinchinbrook Island, the Tiwi Island, and Groote Eylandt.
These indigenous people have populated Australia for over 50,000 years, and it’s believed that modern Aboriginal people are the direct descendant of migrants who left Africa 75,000 years ago. They have occupied the same territory longer than any other human population, establishing an impressive culture over thousands of years.
The Maya Were Masters Of Mathematics
The Maya civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization developed in an area that is now southeastern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and the western parts of Honduras and El Salvador. The term “Maya” is used to refer to the people of the region, although it was not used by the Mayans themselves as there was no collective identity among the various populations of the area.
With the civilization lasting from 2000 BC until the Spanish conquest, the Mayan civilization is considered to be one of the most advanced of all time. They are held in regard for their strides in mathematics, astronomy, architecture, culture, and the only Mesoamerican writing system that has been deciphered.
Ancient Egypt Was Truly Spectacular
Ancient Egypt is arguably one of the most well-known and researched ancient civilizations in the world. From its unification around 3,100 BC until the conquest of Alexander the Great, Egypt was the most impressive civilization in the area around the Mediterranean. Relying heavily on the Nile River, ancient Egypt was an incredibly fertile area, allowing its population to flourish.
The ancient Egyptians are also known for their accomplishments in architecture, such as the Great Pyramids and other monuments, a system of writing and mathematics, the arts, and numerous other technical fields. After reaching its height during the New Kingdom period, it began to slowly decline until it fell to the Roman Empire in 30 BC.
The Norte Chico Civilization
The Norte Chico civilization was a pre-Columbian society that had established more than 30 settlements in the now Norte Chico region of central coastal Peru. The civilization boomed from 4,000 BC to 2,000 BC, and it’s believed that its first city was established around 3,500 BC.
However, it’s agreed that from 3,100 onward, the civilization was in full swing, and since the early 21st century, it has been considered the oldest-known civilization in the Americas. Surprisingly, the Norte Chico civilization had no ceramics and almost no visual art. However, they were highly skilled in architecture, making large earthwork platform mounds and plazas.
The Romans Changed The World
Ancient Rome is a civilization that began with the founding of the city of Rome in the 8th century BC until the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. Rome grew to become one of the largest empires in the ancient world with an estimated 50 to 90 million subjects and covered more than three million miles.
Besides being one of the largest empires, Ancient Rome is revered for its countless contributions to politics, religion, language, the arts, mathematics, engineering, and more. Out of Rome also came some of the most well-known names in history such as Julius Caesar.
The Persians Built The Largest Ancient Empire
Beginning in 550 BC, the Persian Empire was forged by a series of Persian kings beginning with Cyrus II, who began drastically expanding the kingdom. Between 550 and 331 BC, Cyrus II had built the largest empire ever recorded in ancient history. The empire covers what is now Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Northern India, and areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.
The early Persian Empire was known for its tolerant belief system, as well as great advances in architecture, metalworks, and military tactics. They also left behind the Royal Road, which ran from the Aegean Sea to Iran, connecting several cities over 1,500 miles.
The Aztecs Were Masters Of Architecture
Although the Aztecs weren’t considered to be an ancient civilization by European standards, they are still one of the earliest and most organized civilizations in the Americas. It was a Mesoamerican culture in central Mexico that thrived from 1300 to 1521.
The Aztec culture was divided into city-states, with the Aztec Empire, which was established in 1427, was a grouping of three major city-states. The Aztecs were highly skilled in agriculture and trade and were renowned for their architecture, which is considered to be some of the finest ever constructed in the Americas.
The Ancient Greeks Paved The Way For Western Society
Ancient Greece was a civilization that began with the Greek Dark Ages (12th-9th century BC) until the end of antiquity in 600 AD. Three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, cities began to form and populate areas around the Mediterranean Basin.
Classical Greek culture had a significant influence on ancient Rome, which then carried into other parts of the Mediterranean Basin as well as Europe. Because of this, Greece is considered to be the foundation for Western society in terms of religion, philosophy, government, education, art, and more.
The Danubian Culture Is Still A Great Mystery
Before even the ancient Egyptians built their massive pyramids, there was a nameless civilization that dates back to 5500 BC, located near the Balkan foothills and the Lower Danube Valley. Now referred to as the Danubian culture, over 1,500 years, these people raised towns and were perhaps the most advanced civilization of their time.
The society was known for creating “goddess” figurines and burying their dead with costly treasures. Although not much is known about the civilization, it’s clear that it came to a screeching halt after mass graves were discovered around the time the culture began to disappear.
The Ancient Chinese Were Ahead Of Their Time
Although China has always been one of the more prominent and progressive societies throughout history, it had humble beginnings like many others. Although they started in small neolithic villages, it wasn’t long before civilization began to form along the Yellow River in 1600 BC.
Over time, the ancient Chinese were the first to weave silk, press paper, as well as invent the compass, printing press, discover gun powder, and more. Although the Chinese civilization has drastically changed over time, it remains one of the world’s longest-lasting civilizations.
The Minoans Were One Of The First Advanced Civilizations In Europe
Located on the island of Crete and other Aegean islands, the Minoan civilization flourished from 1200 BC to around 1450 BC before finally coming to an end in 1100 BC. It is considered to be one of the first advanced civilizations in Europe and left behind impressive buildings, artwork, writing systems, and more for us to analyze.
The civilization was rediscovered in the early 20th century and amazed archaeologists with its massive palaces complete with plumbing systems and intricate decorations. On top of their skill in architecture, the Minoans also had a vast trade network that went so far as the old Kingdom of Egypt
The “Ain Ghazal Culture Went From Hunter-Gatherers To A Society
‘Ain Ghazal, which translates to mean “the spring of the gazelle” in modern Arabic, was a neolithic society beginning in 7200 BC that is a perfect example of the transition from hunter-gatherer communities to staying in one place. The ‘Ain Ghazal civilization emerged from this shift in what is now modern-day Jordan.
It’s believed that the first major settlement had around 3,000 people and would survive for centuries. The area settled was decorated in figures made from plaster, and would even put the plaster on the faces of their dead. Today, this culture is studied by researchers to see how early civilizations were formed.
The Çatalhöyük Settlement Is A Sight To Behold
Established around 7500 BC, the Çatalhöyük settlement is built on the Konya Plain in Turkey. The Çatalhöyük settlement is most notable for being an incredibly old example of an urban civilization that primarily relied on agriculture in order to survive, possibly the oldest in the world.
With no windows or doors except an entrance through the roof, the Çatalhöyük houses were grouped together like modern neighborhoods. The city also showed little distinction in social class, lacking monuments or bigger houses, leading researchers to assume that the community was based on equality.
The Phoenicians Took To The Sea
Existing around 3200 BC, the Phoenicians were an ancient civilization that was known for its culture centering around sailing and trade. The society was split up among city-states that were located on the Mediterranean coastlines of Northern Israel, Syria, and Lebanon.
On top of being some of the best shipbuilders at that point in history, they were also incredible navigators, able to reach ports as far away as Mesopotamia and even Britain. On top of bringing riches and goods on their ship, it’s also believed that the Phoenicians brought the alphabet to Greece.
The Hattians Lived In Modern-Day Turkey
The Hattians were an ancient people that lived in central Anatolia, which is modern-day Turkey. They were believed to date back as far as the empire of Sargon of Akkad (around 2300 BC), before being absorbed by the Indo-European Hittites.
The Hattians were organized into city-states and small kingdoms, which were ruled in a theocratic fashion. The Hattian religion has traces to the Stone Age and involved worshiping the Earth who takes the shape of a mother goddess, and it’s believed that the people survived up until the 14th century BC.
The Osirian Civilization Vanished
Believed to have predated the ancient Egyptians, the Osirian civilization existed in the Mediterranean region, although not much is known about it. However, it is believed that they managed to build the first earthquake-resistant buildings in the area.
Much like the rumored city of Atlantis, it is believed that the city was washed away by the Mediterranean, and there is little left for historians to study. The Minoan and Mycenaean cultures are believed to have stemmed from the Osirians.