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Flashcards in Ancient History Deck (101)
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Prehistory refers to the time between when man first emerged and the existence of written records.

The oldest written texts date to sometime between the 26th and 24th centuries B.C.


There are two main theses regarding where modern man (Homo sapiens) originated. What are these differing theories?

  1. The Out of Africa Thesis posits that Homo sapiens first arose in Africa and began migrating to other parts of the Earth approximately 125,000 years ago.
  2. The Multiregional Thesis contends that Homo sapiens arose more or less simultaneously in different parts of the globe, and are descended from earlier pre-human groups that left Africa.


According to most anthropologists, how did the first humans arrive in North and South America?

Most anthropologists contend that early man arrived in the Americas via the Bering Land Bridge, which stretches between modern-day Siberia and Alaska.

Lower sea levels brought about by an Ice Age made the bridge a viable pathway to the Americas until 10,000 years ago.


Stone Age

The Stone Age refers to the period between roughly 2.6 million years ago and 2000 B.C. This was a time period when stone was greatly used for building.

Anthropologists typically divide the Stone Age into three periods: Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic.


The ___ ___ is the period ranging from roughly 2.6 million years ago to 12,000 years ago.

Paleolithic Era

During the Paleolithic Era, man and man's predecessors began using stone tools and mainly lived in small roaming groups of hunter-gatherers. There is evidence that Paleolithic man believed in an afterlife, as numerous burials with some household goods have been found.


What era saw the beginnings of agriculture?

During the Mesolithic Era (10,000 B.C. to 4000 B.C.), agriculture became prevalent. Semi-permanent small villages were established.

There is also evidence of extensive animal domestication during this period.


What developments characterized the Neolithic Era?

The Neolithic Era, which stretched from 4000 B.C. to 2000 B.C., saw the development of more permanent villages and early cities, many of which contained walls and defensive fortifications.

Plants were further domesticated, public works such as canals were established to assist in agriculture, and animal herding became prevalent.


The mastery of ___ allowed early man to move into colder regions of the planet, such as Northern Europe.


Fire played a crucial role in mankind's settling of the colder regions of the planet. The controlled use of fire dates back to the Middle Paleolithic Era, some 100,000 to 400,000 years ago.

So crucial was the discovery of fire that the Greeks claimed it descended from the gods and was revealed to man by the Titan Prometheus. For giving the gods' secret away, Prometheus was chained to a rock where an eagle would eat his liver for all eternity.


The development of the ___ made possible more rapid transportation as well as inventions such as the chariot and carts.


The development of the wheel (circa 3500 B.C.) was one of the earliest technological improvements made by men. Interestingly, the wheel was not used by the ancient civilizations of North and South America and did not arrive in the Americas until after Columbus.



Nomads are wandering bands of people who move from place to place to support their livelihood. During the Stone Age, hunter-gatherer nomads continually migrated to seek out new hunting grounds.



Domestication refers to the intentional manipulation of plants and animals to make them more useful to humans. For instance, the domestication of sheep and cows provided an early resource for pastoral societies.


Neolithic Revolution

The Neolithic Revolution occurred in the late Stone Age, when early man began food production instead of merely gathering food.

Also known as the Agricultural Revolution, the Neolithic Revolution marked the rise of farming, public works projects such as agricultural irrigation, and the beginnings of the first villages.


Bronze Age

The Bronze Age began around 2000-3000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus River Valley, and slightly later in other areas. The Bronze Age marks man's first significant use of writing and metals like bronze and copper, as well as the development of city-states.


cultural diffusion

Cultural diffusion refers to the sharing of cultures between societies. As an example, agriculture is believed to have begun in the Middle East before being diffused throughout much of Eurasia.


What are the five hallmarks of a civilization?

  1. Advanced cities dependent in part on trade
  2. Specialized workers
  3. Recordkeeping, usually in the form of writing
  4. Complex institutions, like religion and government
  5. Advanced technologies, such as metalworking


Where did the first civilization arise?

The first civilization was Sumeria and rose in Mesopotamia, which is the region between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers in the south of modern-day Iraq. Sumeria was a collection of city-states and dates from around 4000 B.C.


Where was the Fertile Crescent?

The Fertile Crescent refers to the lands between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, stretching down into Palestine. The land between the rivers was exceptionally good for farming, and the region provided the home for many powerful ancient civilizations, including Sumeria, Assyria, and Babylon.


___ created a law code containing various punishments, including the famous "eye for an eye."


A powerful Babylonian emperor, Hammurabi's Code is among the earliest recorded legal systems, and it could be quite harsh. The famous "eye for an eye" required the loss of an eye if one caused someone else to lose an eye, even accidentally.


During what period of history did the Ancient Egyptian civilization prosper along the Nile River?

Ancient Egypt can roughly be dated from 3200 B.C. to 330 B.C.


Which prominent Ancient Egyptian leader is believed to have been the son of the pharaoh Akhenaten (who ruled in the 14th century B.C.)?


Although his reign was brief and unimportant, the 1922 discovery of his intact tomb is one of the greatest archaeological finds in history.


Which Ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 13th century B.C. is often considered the most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire?

Ramesses the Great


How did Ancient Egyptian writing differ from that of Mesopotamia?

Mesopotamian writing used symbols to equate to sounds, known as cuneiform. Egyptian writing used pictures to represent sounds -- a system known as hieroglyphics.


Egyptians used ___ to make paper, upon which elaborate texts were composed.


Papyrus is made from reeds. Until the Middle Ages, it remained the dominant means of making paper.


What were the first Chinese civilizations?

The first Chinese civilizations were the Xia and Shang Dynasties. The Xia rose to power around 2000 B.C., with the Shang succeeding about 400 years later.


What were the primary trade goods of the early Chinese?

The two primary trade goods of the early Chinese were silk, which may have made its way across India to the Middle East by 1000 B.C., and jade, a type of precious stone that was often elaborately decorated.

The Shang Dynasty also excelled in producing magnificent bronze works, which adorned Chinese temples.


What civilization is considered to be the Mesoamerican mother civilization?

The Olmecs (1200 B.C. to 400 B.C.) were the first civilization to arise in Mesoamerica.

Much like the Sumerians influenced the Babylonians and the Assyrians, the Olmecs are believed to have influenced later cultures such as the Maya and Aztecs.

The Olmecs are remembered today for their carvings of monumental stone heads, some weighing up to 40 tons. The Olmecs also had large mounds and platforms, which historians and archeologists believe had a religious function and may have involved human sacrifice.


What city-state emerged near modern-day Mexico City around 100 B.C.?


Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It was ruled by an oligarchy dedicated to continuing the city-state's polytheistic religion, which included human sacrifice. Historians believe that Teotihuacan's influence waned in the 650s in the wake of internal revolts.


Which culture invented the alphabet?

The Phoenicians, a small empire on the coast of the Mediterranean in modern-day Lebanon and Israel, invented the alphabet around 1050 B.C.

The Phoenicians were a prominent maritime empire, establishing a far-flung trading network that ranged as far as Spain and North Africa.


Which empire was the first to introduce coined money?

The Lydian Empire, located in western Anatolia from the 700s B.C. to the 500s B.C., was the first to introduce coin money, sometime around 610 B.C.

Coins would prove a handy medium of exchange, both because they replaced barter and were easier to transfer from place to place. The Lydians fell to the Persians in 546 B.C.


The Central American ___ civilization developed advanced written language as well as a startlingly accurate calendar.


Maya cities emerged in the 700s B.C. and by 250 A.D., a series of rival city-states and small kingdoms had developed. The Maya kings were also priests, dedicated to appeasing gods by means of human sacrifice. The Maya began to decline around 900, and the last Maya cities fell in the 1600s as the Spanish colonized the Mesoamerican region.