This post shares with you the 10 Oldest Ancient Civilizations of the World.
A civilization is defined as a complex society that goes on to create agricultural surpluses and allows for specialized labor and social hierarchy as well as the establishment of cities.
It is marked with developments in writing, complex religious systems, centralized political power, and monumental architecture.
Civilization is often considered an advanced stage in the progression of human cultural evolution. Civilizations emerged as a practice of living in a group gained momentum.
The earliest civilizations of the world appeared in major river valleys that facilitated irrigation for crops and served as a means of transportation.
Moreover, cities were at the center of all early civilizations where people came to live, work, and trade. So, they offered an opportunity to live and interact with each other.
Various shared institutions developed the likes of government, religion, and language that created a sense of unity among people. It went on to create specialized roles, including bureaucrats, priests, and scribes.
The emergence of religion gave them the meaning of existence, and people began to share a set of beliefs and practices. It created mutual trust and respect.
Politics and religion were strongly interconnected. The Political and religious leaders were at the helm of social affairs claiming to be the representatives of people. Political leaders made decisions that impacted entire societies and religious leaders gained a special status in society.
Besides these leaders, there were artisans and merchants. Artisans provided goods and services, while merchants engaged in the trade of these goods.
There were also lower classes of laborers (known as slaves) who engaged in less specialized work. However, the ability to read and write was limited to highly educated elites such as priests and scribes.
Another very significant feature of early civilizations was the emergence of monumental architecture. It was created for political reasons as well as for public good and religious purposes.
For example, the pyramids of Egypt were created as monuments to deceased rulers. Plus, defensive walls and sewage system was developed that provided for defense and sanitation, respectively.
Social hierarchies came into being that was based on gender, wealth, and division of labor. Some civilizations maintained powerful states and armies through a system of taxes.
How human mentality and psychology led to the development of civilizations is still a hot topic of discussion for many historians and anthropologists, for now, let’s focus our attention on some of the oldest civilizations that existed in the world.
Here, we talk about the civilizations that existed for real. So, here’s the list of the top 10 Oldest Ancient Civilizations in the World.
Table of Contents
10 Oldest Ancient Civilizations
Let’s get started:
1 – The Ancient Mesopotamian Civilization
Mesopotamia is credited to be the first civilization that emerged in human history. Its area lies between Tigris and Euphrates rivers and is set between Asian Minor and the Persian Gulf, which is modern-day Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
This region is known for its rich and fertile agricultural land. The timeline for Mesopotamian civilization ranges from 3300 BC to 750 BC. It’s the first place on earth where civilized society began to take shape.
It was here that people found the concept of agriculture and started to domesticate animals for food as well as to assist in farming.
It was a Mesopotamian civilization that gave birth to written literature. It is also credited with several other inventions in art, culture, and trade.
Some important facts
- Period: 3500 BC to 500 BC
- Meaning: Land between rivers (ancient Greek)
- Highlight: First major civilization in the world
- Original Location: Northeast by the Zagros Mountains and Southeast by the Arabian plateau
- Present Location: Iraq, Syria, and Turkey
2 – The Ancient Egyptian Civilization
Egyptian Civilization has the status of being one of the oldest civilizations in the world. This civilization began with settlers around the Nile valley in early 3500 BC. This majestic civilization which flourished around the banks of River Nile is known for its rich culture, its enduring Pyramids, the Sphinx, and also for its Pharaohs.
This civilization is marked with the political unification of the Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh. It flourished from 3500 BC to 2686 BC and is regarded as the most admired culture in the world. Its magnificent Pyramids stand as evidence to its once-booming culture and a powerful empire in the Egyptian desert.
The history of ancient Egypt hails of stable kingdoms that are separated by periods of relative instability, such as the “intermediate” periods. Some of its stable kingdoms are known as the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age, as well as the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age. This civilization reached its pinnacle during the New Kingdom.
Apart from the pyramids, the Egyptian civilization is known for its mummies that preserve the ancient pharaohs to this day, the solar calendars, and so much more. The world-famous Egyptian culture, art, and architecture are closely linked with the Egyptian civilization.
Some important facts
- Period: 3500 BC to 2500 BC
- Original Location: Banks of River Nile
- Current Location: Egypt
- Major Highlights: Pyramids, Sphinx, and Mummies
3 – The Indus Valley Civilization
The Indus Valley Civilization is regarded as one of the most ancient civilizations of the world. It arose in the region of Indus Valley from 3300 BC to 1900 BC. It is considered the most widespread ancient civilization and covered an area of 1.25 million kilometers.
This civilization covered an extensive region from (what is today) Northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan as well as Northwest India. Along with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley Civilization is regarded as one of the three early civilizations of the ancient world.
The Indus Valley Civilization grew along the Indus River Basin (which is one of the major rivers in Asia) and River Ghaggar-Hakra, which used to flow through Northwest India and Northeast Pakistan.
The Indus Valley Civilization is also known as the Harappan Civilization and Mohenjodaro Civilization. Harappa and Mohenjodaro were the major centers of this civilization where the remains of Indus Valley Civilization were found. The pinnacle of this civilization lasted for several hundred years from 2600 BC to around 1900 BC.
The Indus Valley Civilization featured a technologically advanced urban culture. Its capital became the first urban center in the region. The people of this civilization were experts in measuring length, mass and time. This is evident from artifacts found in excavations. It is also evident that the people of the Indus Valley Civilization achieved great proficiency in arts and crafts as well.
Some Important facts
- Period: 3300 BC to 1900 BC
- Original Location: Indus River Basin
- Current Location: Northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan as well as Northwest India
- Major Highlights: Covered an area of 1.25 million kilometers making it one of the most widespread civilizations of the world
4 – Roman Civilization
The Roman Civilization is said to be dated around Sixth Century BC. Legends and myths are associated with the foundation of ancient Rome. When the Roman Empire was at its pinnacle, it ruled a huge chunk of land. All the present-day Mediterranean countries were associated with ancient Rome.
In the beginning, the Roman Empire was ruled by kings. However, when only seven of them had ruled, the people took control of the power and ruled the cities themselves. They created a council that was known as the Senate. This Senate had all the power and authority to rule over the people. Now, the Roman Empire came to be known as the Roman Republic.
Roman Civilization is known for its soldiers, politicians, and writers. Rome witnessed some of the greatest rulers in the human history of the likes of Julius Caesar, Augustus, and Trajan. However, later on, the Roman Empire became so vast that a single rule cannot govern it. Eventually, the Roman Empire was ruined by barbarians that came from north and east of Europe.
Some Important Facts
- Period: 550 BC to 465 AD
- Original Location: Latini Village
- Current Location: Rome
- Major Highlights: It was the most powerful ancient civilization
5 – Aboriginal Australians
According to some researchers, the Aboriginal Australian is considered to be the oldest and ancient civilizations in the world rather than the Mesopotamian Civilization. These Aborigines are traced back to be 75000 years ago.
However, they became a distinct group about 50,000 years ago. It has been found that these Aborigines settled in Australia approximately 40,000 years ago. They are considered to be direct ancestors of present-day Australians. According to the latest discoveries, the Aborigines were found to practice cremation.
6 – Chinese Civilization
The Chinese Civilization was known as Han China and is studded with the most diverse history as far as ancient civilizations are concerned. All the dynasties that ever ruled in ancient China cover a huge period.
The Chinese Civilization was based around the Yellow River and was the starting point for the earliest dynasties. The legendary Yellow Emperor started his rule around 2700 BC. It later gave birth to many dynasties that began to rule mainland China.
It was the Xia dynasty in 2070 BC that began to rule the whole of China. It has been described in historical chronicles. However, different dynasties held rule until the Qing Dynasty that ushered the Xinhai Revolution in 1912 AD. With this came the end of ancient Chinese Civilization that ruled China over four millennia. The Chinese Civilization is credited with some of the most useful inventions, including gun powder, paper, the compass, printing, alcohol, cannons, and more.
Some Important Facts
- Period: 1600 BC to 1046 BC
- Original Location: Yellow River & Yangtze Region
- Current Location: Country of China
- Major Highlights: Invention of paper and silk
7 – The Persian Civilization
The Persian Civilization was reckoned as one of the most powerful empires in the world. They were in power for more than two hundred years and conquered lands that covered over two million square miles.
The Persian Empire was recognized for its military strength and wise rulers. It spanned and covered regions of Egypt, parts of Greece, and even India. So, they were successful in creating a vast empire.
However, at the beginning before 550 BC, Persia was divided into different factions among several leaders. It was King Cyrus II who was later called as Cyrus the Great unified the whole Persian kingdom and went on to conquer ancient Babylon. He conquered huge territories and even invaded India by 533 BC. After his death, his descendants continued their ruthless expansion and even fought with the brave Spartans.
At this time, the Persian Empire spanned the whole of Central Asia and Egypt. However, ultimately the Persian Empire came to an end when the legendary soldier Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and ended the civilization in 330 BC.
Some Important Facts
- Period: 550 BC to 331 BC
- Original Location: Egypt in the west and spanning Turkey in the North to Mesopotamia and Indus River in the East
- Present Location: Modern Iran
- Major Highlights: Royal Road
8 – The Maya Civilization
The Maya Civilization is much talked about the civilization that flourished in Central America around 2600 BC. In fact, the Maya Civilization is very famous because of the calendar is introduced. Moreover, the Maya Civilization is one of the most sophisticated civilizations that ever existed on earth. When the Mayan civilization was at its peak, it had a booming population of 19 million people.
By 700 BC, the Mayan people had introduced their system of writing. They went on to create solar calendars carved in stone. According to their solar calendar, the world was created on 11TH August, 3114 BC which is the date when their calendar begins. The supposed end date of the world was hailed on 21st December 2012.
The Mayans were culturally very rich. They even built pyramids that were much larger than those in Egypt. However, the Mayan civilization came to an abrupt and sudden end which is still regarded as an intriguing mystery. It collapsed during the eighth or ninth century. The Mayans did not disappear completely. Their descendants are still living in parts of Central America.
Some Important Facts
- Period: 2600 BC to 900 AD
- Original Location: Around Yucatan
- Major Highlights: Vivid understanding of astronomy
9 – The Greek Civilization
Although the Greeks are not the oldest civilization in the world, however, they are undoubtedly the most influential ones around at that time. Their rise is hailed from the Cycladic and Minoan Civilizations from 2700 BC to 1500 BC.
Greek Civilization is spread over a long time. So, historians have divided it into different periods such as the Archaic, the Classical, and Hellenistic periods. These periods witnessed several powerful Greeks that are still talked about to this date.
The Greeks are given the credit of introducing the ancient Olympics. They also introduced the concept of democracy and the Senate. They developed the concepts of geometry, physics, and biology. Pythagoras, Archimedes, Euclid, Plato, Socrates, Alexander the Great are some of the important Greek figures that still occupy our history books to date. In fact, the Greeks are credited with many inventions, theories, and beliefs. Their heroics are famous all over the world. The Greeks had a great impact on the subsequent civilizations.
Some Important Facts
- Period: 2700 BC to 479 BC
- Original Location: Italy, France, Sicily, and North Africa
- Current Location: Greece
- Major Highlights: Olympics, concepts of democracy and the Senate
10 – The Incan Civilization
The Incan Civilization spanned South America in the pre-Columbian era. This civilization spanned and covered regions of Peru, Ecuador, and Chile. They established their military, political, and administrative center at Cusco, which is now in modern-day Peru.
The Incan Civilization was a sophisticated, well-established, and flourishing society. They worshipped the Sun God, Inti. They called their king as “Sapa Inca,” which meant the child of the Sun.
Their first emperor Pachacuti established a great city in the shape of a puma. The Incans were great builders. They constructed fortresses and sites such as Machu Picchu and the city of Cusco, whose remains can still be seen today.
Some Important Facts
- Period: 1438 AD to 1532 AD
- Original Location: Peru
- Current Location: Peru, Chile, and Ecuador
- Major Highlights: Largest empire in South America
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