Who created the world first Civilizations?


More than 5,000 years ago, farming peoples in the river valleys of Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), Egypt, and India, created the world’s first civilizations. In Sumer, southern Mesopotamia, people known as Sumerians built the first cities. Each city was ruled by a king, who governed on behalf of the local god. This scene shows the king of the city of Ur receiving goods from his people.

King: Sumerians believed that kingship was handed down from the gods. This king wears no crown, but his importance is shown by his kilt and the fact that he is larger than everyone else.

Servants: Two men move between the king and his guests, bringing food and drink. Their low status is shown by their smaller size. They would have lived in the palace or in mud-brick homes.

Nobles: These men may have been priests, relatives of the king, or wealthy landowners. They are shown sitting on chairs with delicately carved legs, evidence of luxury at the palace.

Musicians: This man is shown playing a lyre, which has a wooden sound box decorated with the head of a bull. Other instruments from the time included harps, lutes, reed pipes, and drums.

Singer: The only woman in the scene is singing with the lyre player to entertain the guests. Music and dancing played a key role in religious rituals, such as giving thanks for a good harvest.

Farmers: Although the area was hot and dry, silt from the rivers kept the soil fertile. Farmers also dug canals to divert water to their crops, which included barley, turnips, onions, and dates.

Fishermen: Rivers offered a plentiful supply of fish for all early civilizations. From the Indus in India, the Nile in Egypt, and the Euphrates and Tigris in Sumer, fish were caught with nets or spears.

Animals: Sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs were vital to the first civilizations. They provided meat, milk, leather, and wool. Oxen were used to pull ploughs and donkeys were used for transport.

Workers: This man carries a bundle on his back, the heavy load strapped to his head. It was thanks to the toil of workers like this that massive temples for the gods could be built.

Clothing: Made from either wool or flax, both men and women wore tufted kilts, designed to resemble sheepskins. Wealthy men and women also owned elaborate gold jewellery.


This mosaic of blue lapis lazuli, red sandstone, and white shell, was made in the city of Ur in about 2,500 BCE. It decorates one side of a small wooden box found in a royal grave. The purpose of the box is not known. This side shows a peaceful banquet, while the other side depicts scenes of war.

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Which civilizations of known as the “Classical World”?


The civilizations of Ancient Greece and Rome are collectively known as the “classical world”. The word “classical”, in this instance, refers to culture of the highest quality. The Greeks were pioneers in science and the arts. They influenced the Romans, who spread this style of art, architecture, and literature across their own empire. Men in both societies were eager to find fame, often through military might.


During the 8th century BCE, Homer wrote two great epic poems about the legendary Greek war against the city of Troy. The Iliad recounts the story of the Greek warrior Achilles. The Odyssey describes the adventures of another hero, Odysseus, as he journeys home after the war. Homer’s writing is so powerful that it is said to have influenced writers through the ages. He was so important to the Greeks that they simply called him “the poet”. Homer’s poems were originally sung or chanted, to the accompaniment of a lyre.


A philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician, Pythagoras lived in the 6th century BCE. He is remembered today for his work in geometry – particularly his theorem about triangles – but he was also a religious teacher. Pythagoras wanted to unlock the secrets of the Universe, and saw mathematics as the key to everything. He believed that numbers were the ultimate reality.


Socrates (469-399 BCE) was an Athenian thinker whose influence on philosophy was so great that all earlier philosophers are referred to as “pre-Socratic” (before Socrates). However, unlike previous thinkers, such as Pythagoras, Socrates did not try to understand the Universe. He believed that it was more important to find the best way to live. Accused by his enemies of being a bad influence, he was put on trial and sentenced to death by drinking poison.


One of the world’s greatest generals, and bravest of soldiers, Alexander (356-323 BCE) was king of Macedon, to the north of Greece. After forcing the Greeks to unite under his leadership, he conquered a vast empire, stretching from Egypt to northwest India. By the time of his death, aged just 32, he had won lasting fame and was forever known as Alexander the Great.


A statesman and general, Pericles (c. 495-429 BCE) was a leading figure in Athens when the state was a democracy (meaning “power by the people”). He filled Athens with temples, such as the Parthenon, which was dedicated to Athena, goddess of the city. Pericles also promoted the arts, and made Athens the cultural centre of Greece.


As a Roman general, Sulla (138-78 BCE) was a ruthless and ambitious man. His quarrels with a rival general, Marius, led to the first in a series of bloody civil wars - in which Romans fought against each other. Sulla was the first general to march on Rome as the head of an army and seize power. Julius Caesar later followed his example.


Politician, general, and writer, Julius Caesar (c. 100-44 BCE) is famous for his conquest of Gaul (modern-day France), which he described in his book The Gallic Wars. He also fought and won a civil war against a rival Roman general, Pompey. Caesar marched on Rome and was declared dictator for life. He was later murdered for acting like a king, which went against the principles of the Roman republic.


Augustus (the revered one) was the title given to Julius Caesar’s adopted heir, Octavian, when he became Rome’s first emperor. Augustus (ruled 27 BCE-14 CE) took power after defeating his rival, Mark Antony, in battle. He ruled Rome for more than 40 years, and brought peace and stability to the empire after years of civil war.


The wife of Emperor Claudius, Agrippina (15-59 CE) was a powerful and ambitious woman. She persuaded her husband to adopt Nero, her son from a previous marriage. She is thought to have then poisoned Claudius so that the 16-year-old Nero could come to the throne. At first, Nero was dominated by his mother, but he eventually grew tired of her interference and had her murdered.


A Spaniard by birth, Emperor Trajan (ruled 98-117 ce) was the first Roman ruler to be born outside Italy. He was a successful general, and his conquests in the Balkans and what is now Iraq brought the Roman Empire to its largest size. In Rome, a famous column was built in his honour decorated with scenes of his campaigns.

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Ancient Civilizations


Why were pyramids built?

                    Pyramid building developed only slowly in ancient Egypt. The first pyramids were simple structures called mastabas, which were platforms built over the tombs of important people. Over the years further levels were added, until a structure called a step pyramid was produced.

                        In later pyramids, the steps were filled in to produce the smooth conical shape of the famous Pyramids at Giza that we can see today. Pyramid building became an important part of the Egyptian civilization. Egyptians believed that the pyramids offered a pathway to heaven for their rulers, the pharaohs, who were buried with items they might need for the afterlife.



What were the Indus civilizations?

                         Several large civilizations developed in the Indus Valley, in what is now Pakistan and India. These civilizations built houses made from baked mud bricks. They also built toilets, wells and even bath houses. High protective walls surrounded the cities. Outside the cities, the people of the Indus civilizations cultivated cereal crops and dates and also made weapons and other items in bronze. Stone seals from the Indus civilizations have been found along the Persian Gulf and in the ruins of the city of Ur. The seals show how these ancient peoples developed extensive trade links. These civilizations collapsed in about 3500BC, because of invading tribes.






Who developed the earliest writing?

                        No one knows how the first writing system developed, because no records remain. The earliest known writing was recorded in the form of picture symbols on clay tablets by the ancient Sumerians, in around 3500BC. Hieroglyphics were a similar form of picture writing, and the oldest examples date from around 3000BC. Picture symbols were also used in the ancient Chinese writing that appeared in 1500BC. It is likely that all writing started this way, before shapes and letters were used to indicate sounds.

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Ancient Civilizations


When did metal working first develop?

                 Metal working seems to have been developed independently in several places in about 3500Bc.

                It appeared in China, India, Egypt and Mesopotamia at around this time. Bronze was the first metal to be worked.




Why did the Egyptian civilization develop?

                   The Egyptian civilization grew up as a result of the annual flooding of the River Nile. This provided a green and fertile strip of land that could be cultivated, even in an area that is mostly desert. Every year, when the Nile flooded, it deposited rich, fertile silt along its banks. The ancient Egyptians grew crops of barley, wheat and flax in the fertile soils. They used the flax to make linen for their clothes.

                   The river also provided the Egyptians with papyrus reed. They harvested the reed and used it to make a form of paper known as papyrus. It was easy to keep detailed written records on papyrus.

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Ancient Civilizations




Where were the first cities?

                     The first known cities grew up in the Middle East, as much as 10,000 years ago. These ancient cities were built from stone and mud bricks. One city was destroyed to provide building materials for the next city on the same site, making it confusing to try to reconstruct them. Other ancient cities were built in present-day Turkey and China.






Who were the Sumerians?

                  The Sumerians developed the first known civilization, in 3500BC.They lived in Mesopotamia, a region between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in what is now modern Iraq. The Sumerians built large and elaborate cities, developed tax systems and government, and produced irrigation systems to water their crops.

                  Excavations of one major city, called Ur, showed signs of a great flood, which is thought to have been the Flood described in the Bible. The Sumerian civilization lasted for about 1,000 years.

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Where did Montezuma die?

          Montezuma was an emperor of the 16th Century ruling over the Aztec empire from one of the greatest capitals in the world at that time- Tenochtitlan in what is now Mexico.

          “It was like an enchantment… on account of the great towers and temples rising from the water… things never heard of, nor seen, nor even dreamed.” So wrote the Spanish chronicler Bernal Diaz of the city of some 200, 000 people. Montezuma’s capital was on an island in Lake Texococo which had been enlarged by a system of drain-age canals, and was joined to the shore by causeways.

          Across these causeways Hernan Cortes in 1519 led a force of 400 Spaniards, to be greeted by Montezuma as a god. The Spaniards were shown over the shrine-topped pyramids where human sacrifices were made to the Aztecs’ stern war god, Huitzilopochtli.

        “The figure… had a very broad face and monstrous and terrible eyes, and the whole of his body was covered with precious stones, and gold and pearls. There were some braziers and in them were burning the hearts of three Indians they had sacrificed that day. Diaz wrote, describing the scene he witnessed with Cortes. The Aztecs held the Spaniards in awe, but suspicion took over and they realized that Cortes was no god. In this atmosphere, Cortes took Montezuma as a hostage. Hostilities flared, and Montezuma was injured and died.

        In the NocheTriste or Night of Sadness which followed, the Spaniards were all but annihilated by the Aztecs. Cortes and some of his men escaped. A year later they captured Tenochtitlan and razed it to the ground. The Spaniards built a town upon the ruins. It is still the capital of a nation-Mexico City.

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Where is the tomb of Tutankhamen?

Tutankhamen’s tomb is in Egypt, in a place called the Valley of the Kings. Tutankhamen was a pharaoh, who died in 1352 B.C. his name was familiar only to scholars until his tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter. The tomb was filled with precious jewels, ornaments, vases, furniture, cloths, ornamented coffins, chariots, and the mummified body of the young king himself, wearing a gold mask.

      When the Egyptians buried a pharaoh, they took trouble to surround him with beautiful and useful things. They did not believe he was really dead. They thought he would go on living if he were provided with enough things to protect him in his journey through the underworlds, and afterwards.

       Most of the kings’ tombs were robbed, frequently by local people of their jewels and gold.

      There are several chambers in the tomb-the Antechamber, the Burial Chamber, the Treasury, and the store room. In the Antechamber were a beautiful alabaster wishing-cup and a painted wooden casket with brilliant designs. At the doorway of the Treasury was a figure of God called Anubis, a sort of jacket like dog, who was supposed to keep watch over the dead. Round his neck he wore a scarf decorated with lotus and cornflowers.

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Who were the Aztecs?

An Aztec was an Indian who lived on the plains of Mexico from the 11th century to the beginning of the 16th. The Aztec civilization was one of the most magnificent in the whole of Central American history, although it was not created by the Aztecs themselves. They simply took over and organized what others had already created. They spoke a language called Nahua, which is still used by over a million Mexicans today, although Spanish is their official tongue.

      In 1324 the Aztecs settled in an Island village called Tenochtitlan, which later grew up into a large town. Mexico City is built on the same spot.

     The Aztecs constructed many beautiful palaces and pyramid shaped temple for the worship of their numerous gods, to whom they offered human sacrifice. They also developed a surprising knowledge of mathematics and astronomy.

     The days of their greatest glory were also their last. In 1519 Hernando Cortez, a Spanish explorer landed in Mexico, marched to Tenochtitlan and took the Aztec king Montezuma prisoner two years later he finally defeated the Aztecs and destroyed their city.

      Fortunately, not everything belonging to the Aztec civilization has disappeared. It is possible to find many example of their culture in Mexico today. Apart from ornaments and trinkets, there are many well preserved architectural remains- sacrificial platforms, temples, and a remarkable calendar stone

How were the beings in the Zapotec religion and legends alike?

The Zapotec religion was polytheistic, that is, they believed in multiple gods and goddesses differentiated only by their costumes.

Gods were depicted wearing clothes with or without capes, while goddesses were depicted wearing skirts. Many of the gods were associated with fertility and agriculture.

Some popular deities were Cocijo, Coquihani, and Pitao etc. They associated life to inanimate objects too.

There are several legends about the origin of the Zapotec. One of them is that they were descended from big cats like pumas, jaguars, and ocelots. They believed themselves to be the original people of the valley of Oaxaca. They assumed themselves to be born from rocks.

The Zapotec believed that they were the descendants of super-natural beings, living among the clouds and believed that they would return to the clouds after their death. It is due to this very belief, the Zapotecs are also known as the cloud people. 

Why Nazca is art and metal-work considered unique?

          The Nazcas were fond of not only wool weaving and embroidery, but also of painting plain cotton cloth with an array of colorful images and motifs. Nazca weavers employed an astonishing range of colours and shades to produce intricate and detailed designs.

          The Nazca people made some of the finest pottery and the designs used on them were unique and beautiful. They often depicted harvest scenes on their pottery. Also, animal figures seen in Nazca Line were also used as motifs.

          Looms, spindles, needles, cotton balls, and pots of dyes have all been excavated from Nazca settlements. Nazca metalworkers beat gold into thin sheets which were cut to create silhouettes. Masks were produced which were worn over the mouth and made the wearer appear to have a golden beard and whiskers. Full-face gold masks, hair plumes, and nose and forehead ornaments were also produced.

Why is it said that the Nazca Civilization was once a mighty civilization?

              The Nazca Civilization is one of the most splendid civilizations that can trace its origin, on the southern coast of Peru by the middle of the first millennium BC. They settled in the Nazca valley. The culture is noted for the geoglyphs made on the desert floor commonly known as Nazca lines. Nazca lines are earth drawings in the forms of animals and plants. They were made by removing the dark surface stones to expose the lighter ground below. Their exact purpose is disputed.

              The Nazca people were also masters of irrigation, and built a network of underground canals.

             Villages were the lifelines of the Nazca civilization. The houses of people were different according to their social class. The Nazca people enjoyed their social life and came together regularly for festivals. 

Why is the Zapotec Civilization considered as a prominent civilization?

               The Zapotec was an advanced Mesoamerican civilization that was prominent before the arrival of the Europeans. There are evidences of the civilization at the ancient city of Monte Alban, which was once a popular city in Mesoamerica.

               The Zapotecs dominated much of the territory that today belongs to Oaxaca in Mexico.

               The Zapotec rulers were powerful, and seized control of many provinces outside the valley of Oaxaca, as none of these provinces could compete with them politically and militarily.

               The Zapotecs depended on rivers for their agriculture. They also used canal irrigation to provide water for crops away from the river.

               The Zapotecs developed a calendar and a writing system which is believed to be the first one in Mesoamerica. 

Why is it believed that Wari civilization was greatly affected by drought?

            The end of Wari Civilization is mysterious. The civilization began to deteriorate around 800 AD. Archeologists have determined that the city of Wari was dramatically abandoned by 1000 AD.

            It is believed that severe drought that lasted for centuries, made the Wari civilizations’ end. Even though written records are not available to prove this point, their architecture suggests that they did, indeed face a severe drought.

            The buildings in Wari had doorways that were deliberately blocked up, as if the Wari intended to return, someday when the rains returned. But by the time rain came, the Wari Civilization faded from history. Though they didn’t survive the test of time, the Wari Civilization contributed a great deal to the succeeding civilizations. 

Why is it said that the Wari Civilization was a prominent civilization?

            The Wari is an Andean civilization that flourished in Ancient Peru between AD 450 -1000.

            They left a significant influence on later civilizations like Nazca.

            They were an advanced civilization. The more militaristic Wari were also gifted agriculturalists. They constructed canals to irrigate terraced fields.

            They were good at art as well as architecture. They used distinctive decorative motifs on pottery. The main motif was the Doorway God, which was a figure often represented with a rectangular face and rayed headdress.

            It is believed that the people of Wari were the first to use terrace agriculture, which was later adapted and developed by the Incas. The Wari implemented a combined strategy of military might, economic benefits, and distinct artistic imagery to forge a civilization across ancient Peru. 

Why is it said that the agricultural methods of the Aztecs were unique?

          From the floating fields called chinampas to the terrace crops grown, the Aztecs proved themselves to be much advanced as far as agriculture was concerned. The Aztecs mainly used four methods of agriculture.

          Prominent among them was agriculture using chinampas. Chinampas were often set up in lakes with the help of poles. The Aztecs overcame the lack of conventional farming land by chinampas. Each chinampa was framed by a group of up to fifteen people.

          The second form of agriculture was ‘rainfall cultivation’. The Aztecs also implemented terrace agriculture in hilly areas.

          In the valleys irrigation farming was used. Dams diverted water from natural springs to the fields. The Aztecs’ canal system was much effective. It was long enough to provide water to entire Aztec cultivations.