The ancient history timeline below, closely follows the historical highlights in part I of the fascinating documentary series history of the world. From the first civilizations to the present day, this series aims at telling the whole human story in an unique way. It takes footage from hundreds of different historical films, TV-series and documentaries and puts them together on a compelling soundtrack with explanatory captioning. The result is a historical narrative, unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Part I of the series covers a period in history commonly known as ancient history, an era defined by the earliest evidence of modern humans and the slow development of the first villages into competing continental civilizations. It ends before the Classical Era. Below is the timeline of major events depicted in the documentary, including direct links to other top-quality documentaries for further study.
Table of Contents
Civil Life Comes
at a Price
In the ancient world, when humanity slowly switched from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to farming, (around 12.000 BCE), it came at a price. Archeological evidence suggests that prehistoric hunter-gatherers were robust and healthy. Their diets – mainly raw fruits, leaves and vegetables, with some meat and fresh fish – where well attuned to the human body.1History – the definitive visual guide, Page 52, ISBN: 978 1 4053 1809 9, DK
Disease, War, Sacrifice
Despite the benefit of a farming lifestyle, which enabled the support of much larger communities, people also suffered ill effects. The diets of people were less varied and many killer-diseases arose for the first time in human populations. Smallpox and Anthrax are two good examples. In both cases and many others, the disease causing organisms evolved to cross species barriers from livestock, and where able to take hold because people were living so close together in mostly unsanitary conditions. Rats, fleas and lice thrived, and carried disease such as the plaque an typoid. In times of flood, draught or war, these problems worsened.2History – the definitive visual guide, Page 39, Health risks early village life, ISBN: 978 1 4053 1809 9, DK
No one in early civilizations could understand disease as modern medicine does. And so people were inclined to attribute the causes of disease to super-natural forses. Just as explanations for disease appeled to the super-natural, so too did most attempts to cure people. As a result organized religion took hold of societies. In most cultures priests were as important as physicians, and sacrifice to the gods commonplace.
With hindsight civilization has led to near perpetual warfare about resources, religion and power.
Ancient History Timeline
The Neolithic Revolution—also referred to as the Agricultural Revolution—is thought to have begun about 12,000 years ago. It coincided with the end of the last ice age and the beginning of the current geological epoch, the Holocene And it forever changed how humans live, eat, and interact, paving the way for modern civilization.
The Birth of Civilization
The world’s earliest town agglomoration developed in Mesopotomia (4.800 BCE), probably as a result of the need to organize the construction of the irrigation canals feeding of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The development from villages to towns was a slow process that took place over hundreds, even thousands of years. Although somewhat later, the same happened around the Nile River (4.000 BCE), the Indus and the Yangtze.
As humans began to band together in organized communities, more structured societies emerged. They began to develop greater powers of communication – writing, speech, trade – create complex belief systems, and form cultured urban civilizations, particularly in the Middle-East and India.3History – the definitive visual guide, Page 47, Rulers and Hierarchies, ISBN: 978 1 4053 1809 9, DK
The Downside of Civilization
Since the early civilizations, humanity has been haunted by decimating plaques, devastating natural disasters killing hundreds of thousand people and near perpetual warfare. All are the result of people’s desire to band together, expand and prosper.
The Bronze Age Collapse
In the late Bronze Age, a diplomatic community of empires, led by Egypt, maintained a thriving international system based on bronze. Yet, between 1.200 – 1050 BCE, the system mysteriously collapsed. The records of these powers hint at widespread invasions from a band of raiders, referred to as Sea Peoples.3Souri Somphanith, Crisis in the Late Bronze Age Triggered by Environmental Change, PLOS
Although the sudden Bronze Age collapse is still somewhat shrouded in mystery, today we believe the following happened.
bronze age crisis
Correspondence from that time attributes the fall of Bronze Age empires, at least partially, to invasions from a band of raiders, referred to as Sea Peoples. Other scholars studying this period point to natural disasters, such as earthquakes or drought. Research recently published in PLOS ONE reveals a more insidious culprit: Climate change may have fueled drought, the invasions, and eventually the collapse of these civilizations in what historians call the Late Bronze Age crisis 4David Kaniewski ,Elise Van Campo,Joël Guiot,Sabine Le Burel,Thierry Otto,Cecile Baeteman, Environmental Roots of the Late Bronze Age Crisis, PLOS.
Key to the Bronze Age stability was the need for supplies of copper and tin to make bronze for weapons and tools. Copper was abundant, but the source of tin at the time was in distant Afghanistan. Long-distance trade in metals, therefore, needed to be maintained. The states in the Middle-East formed a diplomatic community, based on intensive correspondence, international treaties, dynastic intermarriage, and the exchange of gifts and courtesies. Whatever the political balance and regardless of who was fighting whom, tin for bronze was delivered.
The collapse began in 1.200 BCE and ended 300 years later with the rise of the Assyrian Empire. The first sign was the destruction of the Mycenaean citadels in Greece, most likely by northern invaders, climate change, droughts and earthquakes. It seems that dispossessed Myceneaens flooded outwards to new lands. This is probably the origin of the story of Troy. What follows in the scant records available seems to be a cascade of mass migration, disruption of trade routes and destruction. Around 1.180 BCE the Hittite Empire abruptly disappeared from history. The Egyptians fought of invasions by groups they called the “Sea Peoples”, who may have been bands of displaced Myceneans and Hittites plundering together.
The Iron Age
The Bronze to Iron Age transition took about 300 years to fully come about; its completion clearly marked by the rise of the Assyrian Empire that owed its success to the both violent and skillfull exploitation of new Iron Age warfare techniques.
During the Bronze Age, iron ore was more readily accessible than the ingredients for bronze. Yet, the great powers stuck with Bronze because the transition to an iron economy was highly disruptive. After they fell, iron came into common use.5Venkatesh Rao, The Disruption of Bronze, Ribbonfarm – constructions in magical thinking
Experts assume that a disruption in trade routes may have caused shortages of the copper and tin used to make bronze around this time . Metal smiths as a result turned to Iron as an alternative