One of the first civilizations was in Mesopotamia. This is the ancient name for

One of the first civilizations was in Mesopotamia. This is the ancient name for an area covered mostly by modern-day Iraq and Kuwait and means “the land between two rivers.” The two rivers are the Tigris and Euphrates. These rivers are somewhat unpredictable, which had an effect on the Mesopotamian culture. A succession of cultures took control of Mesopotamia. The area is sometimes called the “Fertile Crescent.”City-states developed in Mesopotamia by 3000 BCE. City-states can be defined as cities that function as individual states. They shared a common culture, but each city was its own political entity.The Mesopotamians developed a writing system, cuneiform, which was often written on clay tablets. One of the most famous works of literature is the “Epic of Gilgamesh” about a legendary king of Uruk. The story contains an account of a great flood, similar to that in the Judeo-Christian writings. The Mesopotamians worshiped their gods at a ziggurat, a stepped mud-brick temple. Each city would have its own god or goddess, such as Anu, the sky god, Utu (Shamash), the sun god, and Inanna, the goddess of love and war. The Mesopotamians thought of their gods much like their world as changeable and violent.The first Mesopotamian cities were in Sumer at places such as Ur, Uruk and Shurrupak. The Mesopotamians invented the wheel and the 60-based number system (as used today in clocks and 360 degrees in a circle). They used metals such as bronze and gold.The Standard of Ur is an ancient Sumerian artifact. It is not sure what it was used for, but it depicts war and peace in the Mesopotamian world:(More information about the Standard of Ur (Links to an external site.)The Sumerians were taken over by the Akkadian empire under Sargon the Great.The Akkadians were taken over by the Babylonians. Old Babylonia (the first Babylonian empire) was ruled by Hammurabi who is famous for his code of laws. The laws did not provide equal justice for all (they were weighted in the favor of upper-class men) but they were, at least, written laws about important matters such property and crime and. There were 282 laws listed on a “stele,” a carved rock monument. The stele depicts Hammurabi receiving the laws from Shamash, the sun god.(Information about Mesopotamia (Links to an external site.)(Information about Hammurabi’s Code of Laws (Links to an external site.)EGYPTAnother river valley civilization, ancient Egypt lasted 3000 years from about 3000 BCE.Egypt developed around the Nile River. The Nile River flows north, so Upper Egypt was in the south and Lower Egypt in the north. The Nile is predictable and the Egyptian world was isolated, which affected their culture and view of life. There were three great periods of Egyptian history: Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom. These were separated by intermediate periods. Egyptian culture was remarkably consistent over its long history.The capital of the Old Kingdom was Memphis. Egypt was ruled by kings known as pharaohs. The deceased pharaohs would be interred in tombs called pyramids. The pharaohs would be mummified and buried with all they would need for the afterlife. The “Book of the Dead” is a collection of myths about the procedures to go to the afterlife.The Old Kingdom built great pyramids at Giza for the pharaohs Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. The sphinx is a man-lion monument near the pyramids.(Information about the Old Kingdom (Links to an external site.)(Link to Google Map of the Pyramids (Links to an external site.) The Old Kingdom collapsed and was replaced by the Middle Kingdom. The capital moved further up the Nile to Thebes. The Middle Kingdom also collapsed ushering in the New Kingdom.The New Kingdom had several interesting pharaohs: Hatshepsut was a female pharaoh who ruled for twenty years; pharaoh Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti changed the religion to the worship of the sun, the Aten; Tutankhamun died young, but his almost intact tomb was discovered in modern times; Ramses II, one of the greatest pharaohs, built a huge monument at Abu Simbel and may have been the pharaoh who met Moses in the Jewish writings.(Information about the New Kingdom (Links to an external site.)(Information about Tutankhamun (Links to an external site.)Both men and women were important in the society of ancient Egypt, more so than in Mesopotamia. Hieroglyphics was the writing system of ancient Egypt. The ability to read hieroglyphics was lost, but the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, with the same message written in three languages, including hieroglyphics, unblocked the writing of the ancient Egyptians.The ancient Egyptians worshipped many gods. Amun-Re, the sun god, was important. Karnak was a great temple dedicated to Amun-Re. Pharaoh Akhenaten briefly changed the Egyptian religion to the worship of the sun.OTHER CIVILIZATIONSStonehenge is a stone circle in England dating from 2000 BCE. It was built by the “Beaker culture” not the Druids.(Information about Stonehenge (Links to an external site.)(Short video of President Obama Visiting Stonehenge (Links to an external site.) (2.42)(Link to Google Map of Stonehenge (Links to an external site.)The Indo-Europeans came from central southwest Asia, and, from around 4000 to 1000 BCE migrated across Europe and to India. In the absence of written records, their movement can be traced by their language. They brought horses and chariots.Iron working became important. Iron is more difficult to work with than bronze and requires higher temperatures to extract the metal from the ore. However, iron is more abundant than the tin needed to make bronze. The Iron Age started around 1000 BCE.EMPIRES AND SURVIVORSIn the period after 1000 BCE, some powerful empires rose to dominate the Middle East.An Indo-European group, the Hittites, existed in modern-day Turkey. Expert at iron working, they had horses and chariots. Their empire extended into Palestine, where they fought the Egyptians for control.The Assyrians built an empire with a capital at Nineveh. They also had iron and chariots and were experts at many forms of warfare.The Neo-Babylonians, a new Babylonian empire, took over from the Assyrians. Their capital at Babylon was famous for the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon.” One of the wonders of the ancient world, these were probably rooftop gardens. Nebuchadnezzar was a noted ruler of the Neo-Babylonians.The Persians built a mighty empire centered on modern-day Iran that stretched from Europe to India. Susa and Persepolis were their capitals. The Persian Empire was a well-organized and tolerant empire. Cyrus the Great was one of their rulers. The Cyrus Cylinder is an example of early international agreement.Zoroastrianism was the religion of ancient Persia. Founded by Zoroaster, Zoroastrianism has some similarities with Judaism, such as monotheism and the belief in a struggle between good and evil.Amidst these empires some small groups survived and made great contributions to the world.The Phoenicians built city states on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, such as Tyre, Sidon and Byblos. The Phoenicians were great traders involved in trade all around the Mediterranean Sea. They traded in a special kind of purple dye, glass and cedar, and established colonies such as Carthage in North Africa. The Phoenicians devised an alphabet, which is the ancestor of our modern alphabet.(Information about the Phoenicians (Links to an external site.)The great contribution of the Hebrews is their religion, a form of monotheism, which has directly affected Judaism, Christianity and Islam.The founder of the Hebrews was Abraham who probably came from Sumer to Palestine in about 1900 BCE. The Hebrews became enslaved in Egypt, but their leader, Moses, led them out of Egypt in about 1400 BCE.The Hebrews held to a monotheistic belief in Yahweh. Part of their religious tradition is that Yahweh gave them ten commandments written on two tablets of stone. These were kept in a large receptacle they could carry called the Ark of the Covenant.The Hebrews organized a kingdom in Palestine, Israel. Saul, David and Solomon were kings of Israel.The Hebrews were traditionally organized in twelve tribes. The ten tribes of Israel in the north were destroyed by the Assyrians (the ten lost tribes of Israel) and the two tribes of Judah in the south were deported to Babylon by the Neo-Babylonians. This was the age of the prophets who helped reform the Jewish religious ideas. The Torah is a collection of the sacred writings of the Jewish people. The term Jewish people refers to the descendants of the Hebrews from the two tribes of Judah.Eventually, the Persians allowed the Jewish people to return to Israel. Israel was later dominated by new empires, the Greeks and then by the Romans who finally destroyed Israel. The Jewish people were scattered, but Israel was refounded in modern times.The Dead Sea Scrolls is a collection of Jewish writings from the second century CE. These were made by the Essene community, a Jewish community, and hidden at the time of the Romans. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in recent times.(Link to short movie about the Dead Sea Scrolls (Links to an external site.) (1.3
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