Semester I reading Review Historical Trends and Processes

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Semester I Reading Review
Historical Trends and Processes
World history is the story of human experience. It is a story of how people, ideas, and goods spread across the earth creating our past and our present. To help us better understand this experience, we will divide history into four main eras: prehistory, ancient times, middle ages, and modern times. Our story begins during prehistory in east Africa where human life began. From Africa humans spread to Eurasia (Europe and Asia), to Australia, and finally to the Americas. Human migration was one of the great waves of history.
During most of history, most humans made their living by hunting and gathering. Then about 12,000 years ago, people in the Middle East learned how to cultivate a wild wheat plant, and agriculture was born -- another great wave of history. No longer were humans constantly on the move searching for food. People could settle in one place, build cities, and make inventions like the plow, wheel, and writing. The complex societies that resulted are what we call civilization, another wave of history and the start of ancient times. In terms of a human lifetime, waves of change moved slowly, and much stayed the same amid the changes.
Waves of history were channeled over the earth by geography. The first civilizations arose in river valleyswhere rivers provided fresh water for raising crops and transportation for moving crops to market. Beginning in Mesopotamia, civilization spread west to Egypt and east to India. These three civilizations formed an early international trading network that eventually extended across the connected lands of Eurasia and North Africa, a vast region that lies in a temperate climate zone where most of the world’s people have lived since prehistoric times. More people meant more ideas, more inventions, and more diseases than in other parts of the world. Waves of change took longer to reach sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas because they were separated from Eurasia by physical barriers of desert and ocean.
As agriculture replaced hunting and gathering, human population increased. People in civilized societies divided themselves into unequal social classes with priests and kings at the top. Wealthy landowners collected rent payments from poor farmers, men came to dominate women, and slavery became common. In the grasslands of central Eurasia, nomadic people chose not to settle down and raise crops. They lived herding animals from pasture to pasture with the seasons. They learned to ride horses, developed cavalryskills, and attacked settled communities. Sometimes these nomadic raiders conquered great civilizations.
During ancient times people in Eurasia invented many things that still define civilization today such as money, armies, iron, math, literature, democracy, and major world religions -- to name a few. Ancient times lasted for roughly 4,000 years, ending about 500 AD after nomadic raiders brought down great classical civilizations in India, China, and the Mediterranean. The middle ages followed and lasted a thousand years.
Change spread to new places mostly through trading contacts. Some people welcomed change, while others avoided change and tried to maintain traditional ways. In the late middle ages, China was a superpower with the greatest navy in the world until China's rulers chose to reduce contact with the outside world and dismantled the fleet. This choice opened the door for Europeans to make the great voyages of discovery that connected the world and began the modern era around the year 1500. Change was moving faster now.
Stone Age

History has been divided into three eras based on the kinds of tools, or technology, that people used during these periods: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. By far the longest stretch of human story took place before and during the Stone Age, a period called prehistoric times, when people did not yet know how to read or write. The Stone Age began about 250,000 BC and ended about 4,000 BC when the Bronze Age began in the Middle East. (These ages began at different times in different places.) During the Stone Age, people learned to use fire and make stone tools and weapons; they also developed spoken language and farming. The earliest discoveries of human art are also from the Stone Age. Paleolithic is a scientific term applied to the early Stone Age when humans made their living mostly by hunting, scavenging, or gathering wild food such as nuts and berries. Neolithic means the late Stone Age when agriculture began, and copper tools were developed. (Neo means new; lithic means stone. Both terms come from Greek, another ancient language that contributed to the modern language we use today.)
Development of agriculture

Before the Neolithic period, most humans made their living by hunting and gathering, which meant that humans were constantly on the move following wild game herds. This began to change about 12,000 years ago when people in the Middle East discovered they could plant and harvest a wheat plant they found growing wild. At about the same time, people began to domesticate wild animals, raising them for food and as a source of power that could pull wagons and plows. (Agriculture means farming and raising livestock.) People no longer had to follow the wandering animal herds; they could settle in one place, grow crops, and eventually build towns and cities. With permanent homes, people could collect more possessions, which encouraged the invention of new technologies such as pottery making and looms for weaving. Because agriculture could support more people per square mile than hunting and gathering, human population jumped from about two million people during the early Stone Age to about 60 million during the late Stone Age. Farmers learned to grow more food than they needed for their own use, resulting in a surplus. Agricultural surpluses made it possible to accumulate wealth, and they led to job specialization because not everyone had to raise food to make a living. Some people could specialize in non-agricultural work -- like making pottery, or becoming priests or government officials -- and be supported by others from the agricultural surplus. Agriculture became the main source of wealth in most societies until the industrial age.
Early Civilization

Agriculture made civilization possible because it permitted humans to settle permanently in one place, build cities, and develop complex societies. Large groups of people living together encouraged job specialization, the development of government, and written language, all of which are important features of civilization. Writing probably began as a way to record business dealings, especially the exchange of agricultural products. Cities and writing are often considered the primary indicators of civilization. When people started to write, prehistoric times ended, and historic times began. Not everything about civilization was positive. Complex societies usually meant greater separation of people into classes based on social position or wealth. Often a wealthy class of aristocrats controlled the land and collected rents from poor farmers. Society became divided between the “haves” and the “have nots.” Civilized societies were probably more patriarchal (male dominated) than hunter-gatherer bands in which everyone helped to supply food that ensured the group’s survival.

Located in the modern country of Iraq, Mesopotamia is known as the “cradle of civilization” because it is here that civilization first began around 3500 BC, a date considered the beginning of ancient times. Mesopotamia is a region, not a country, within the larger region of the Middle East. Regions are the basic units of geography. A region is an area of the earth with consistent cultural or physical characteristics.

Regions may be large like the Middle East, or they may be smaller like Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia lies between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; the name Mesopotamia means “between the waters” in Greek. Here farmers learned to build irrigation systems that turned the dry valley into a prosperous center of agriculture supporting many people. This is an early example of how humans can change the natural environment. As settlements in southern Mesopotamia grew into busy cities, this area called Sumer became the world’s first civilization. The Sumerians built walled cities and developed the earliest-known writing called cuneiform, in which scribes (record-keepers) carved symbols onto wet clay tablets that were later dried. The Sumerians are credited with writing the world’s oldest story, the Epic of Gilgamesh, about the life of a Sumerian king. The Sumerian number system was based on 12, which explains why we have 60-minute hours, 24-hour days, 12-month years, and 360-degree circles.
Code of Hammurabi

Because the fertile valley of Mesopotamia had no natural barriers for protection, its wealth attracted many raiders and conquerors over the centuries. Civilizations came and went amid much warfare. One of the most powerful civilizations to arise in Mesopotamia was Babylon (1900 to 500 BC). Hammurabi was an early king of Babylon who created an empire by bringing much of Mesopotamia under his control. (An empire is a collection of states [countries] controlled by one government.) Hammurabi helped unite the Babylonian empire by publishing a set of laws known as the Code of Hammurabi, history’s first known written laws. He had the 300 laws of the code carved onto stone pillars for all to see, which meant that nobody was above the law; it applied to everyone. The goals of Hammurabi’s Code included, “stable government and good rule...that the strong may not oppress the weak.” Babylon later became known for its hanging gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and for the decadent life-style of its people; “a Babylon” now means a place of corruption and sin. The Bible mentions the Tower of Babel, probably a ziggurat, that the builders hoped would reach to heaven. In response to their arrogance, God confused the builders’ language so they could no longer understand one another’s speech. The Bible says this is how the people of the world came to babble in different languages.

The Hebrews were an ancient people of the Middle East who established the kingdom of Israel at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea about 1000 BC. There they founded the religion of Judaism. Judaism was unusual because it worshipped only one God (monotheism). It was also a universal religion that could be worshipped anywhere; it was not tied to a particular place like the gods of Sumer. The Israelites were conquered by the Babylonians in the 500s BC and taken to Babylon in chains. During the exile in Babylon, Jewish scribes began to write the Bible in an effort to preserve Hebrew culture and religion. Laws contained in the Bible such as “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” have a basis in the Code of Hammurabi. (The Jewish Bible is what Christians call the Old Testament.) Over the centuries since then, Jews have settled in many parts of the world, but they have maintained their identity as a people. In an effort to regain their Ancient homeland in the Middle East, Jews took over Arab lands in Palestine following World War II, which resulted in years of conflict between Jews and Arabs that still continues.

Not long after the world’s first civilization arose between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Mesopotamia, civilization spread west to the Nile River valley of Egypt. Egyptians probably learned about irrigation, the plow, writing, and other technologies from Mesopotamia. Egypt is said to be a “gift of the Nile” because the river provided irrigation water, fertile soils due to annual floods, and easy transportation by boat. Boats on the Nile were pulled north by the Nile’s current, and they sailed south with the prevailing winds. Egyptians considered the river sacred; it separated the “land of the living” on the east bank (where the sun rises) from the “land of the dead” on the west bank (where the sun sets). Egypt’s two main geographic features are the Nile and the Sahara Desert. Ancient Egypt was a long, narrow oasis along the river in the desert. It has been said, “geography is destiny,” and perhaps this was true in Egypt where the Nile was the lifeblood of the country, and the desert provided natural barriers to enemies permitting ancient Egyptian civilization to last for 3,000 years, the longest in history (3100 BC to 30 BC). Ancient Egyptians had a polytheistic religion; their important gods included Ra, god of the sun and creator of life, and Osiris, god of rebirth. The struggle between Osiris and his evil brother Set represented the eternal struggle between good and evil. Many works of art, literature, and architecture survive from ancient Egypt including huge tombs of the pharaohs, the Sphinx, and the great pyramids near Cairo, which is Egypt’s modern day capital city. The ancient Egyptians also developed a 365-day calendar based on the solar year. Their calendar was adopted by the Roman Empire and became the calendar we use today.

Pharaohs were the kings of ancient Egypt who were worshipped as gods. Their wealth came from the bountiful agriculture made possible by the Nile. Egypt’s Pharaohs controlled strong central governments that built massive public works such as the irrigation systems that tamed the Nile’s floods allowing agriculture to flourish in the desert. The pharaohs also built impressive temples and monuments that still stand today. Notable among Egypt’s pharaohs were Ramses II (Ramses the Great) who was a warrior as well as a builder of great temples and statues, and Queen Hatshepsut, the first important woman ruler in history. Cleopatra was the last queen of the thirty-one dynasties, or ruling families, of Egypt. The best-known pharaoh is Tutankhamen, or King Tut, who died at the age of eighteen. Although his reign was not very important, he became famous in our time for the discovery of his unplundered tomb in the 1920s, the only tomb of a pharaoh found intact. Grave robbers looted the other tombs centuries ago. Although Tutankhamen was a minor king, his tomb contained fantastic riches: over 5,000 objects in four rooms including a spectacular life-like mask of solid gold that covered the head and shoulders of his mummy (his preserved body). King Tut’s tomb is one of the most impressive archeological discoveries of all time.

Most of the country of India is a triangular-shaped peninsula that juts into the Indian Ocean. Due to its central location on the Indian Ocean between China and the Middle East, India became the ancient world’s largest trading center. India also gave the world important new ideas including the numbering system we use today and the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Today India is the second most populous country in the world after China, and India is the world’s largest democracy. The capital of India is New Delhi. India and nearby countries form a region known as the Indian subcontinent or Southern Asia. After civilization first emerged in Mesopotamia and Egypt, it spread east to India. The earliest civilization in India grew along the Indus River valley of western India (now Pakistan) around 2500 BC. The Indus Valley Civilization had a written language and large cities with sophisticated plumbing systems. These were the first people to grow cotton. Ships and overland trade caravans connected India to Mesopotamia and Egypt in an early international trading network. The Indus Valley Civilization lasted for about a thousand years; it was replaced by a new culture ruled by nomadic raiders arriving from central Asia.
Caste System

The chariot warriors from the north who took control of India are called Aryans. Because India’s early cities collapsed, and the Aryans were illiterate (could not read and write), civilization was lost in India for several centuries. Nonetheless, the light-skinned Aryan invaders from the north made themselves the ruling class in the caste system, a social system that still has influence in India today. Under India’s caste system, people were born into permanent classes for life, and they could marry only within their own caste. There are four main castes with complicated rules of behavior: 1) the priests, 2) the warriors, 3) the merchants, and 4) the common people, mostly peasants and laborers. Most people of ancient India were members of the commoner class, which had limited rights. A fifth group, the Untouchables, was outside the caste system. Considered not human, Untouchables performed the worst jobs such as cleaning toilets and burying the dead. While the caste system may seem unfair to us today, it provided a means for different kinds of people to live together peacefully while avoiding the slavery common to many ancient cultures.

Hinduism is the oldest major religion in the world today; it survived so long by changing and adjusting to new circumstances. To Hindus all religions are acceptable, and the practices of other religions may be included as part of Hindu worship. Hindus believe in an eternal and infinite spiritual principle called Brahman that is the ultimate reality and foundation of all existence. Brahman can take the form of many gods including Brahma the creator of the universe, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. For Hindus, a proper life is unconcerned with worldly riches; the goal is to seek union with Brahman, a

quest that may take many lifetimes. Hindus believe in reincarnation, meaning the soul never dies and may be reborn again in a different body. Karma, all of the actions of a person’s life, will determine if a person returns in the next life at a higher level on the ladder of incarnation and closer to union with Brahman. Hinduism is the largest religion of India and a defining feature of Indian culture. Hinduism and the caste system served to maintain order among India’s many ethnic groups because each person knew his or her place in society, and people who followed the rules could hope to move to a higher caste in the next life.

Not everyone in India was satisfied with Hinduism. In the 500s BC, a young Hindu prince raised in luxury became troubled by the suffering he saw in the world. He left his wife and infant son to become a wandering monk, seeking a way to end the suffering. After six years of solitary searching, he found an answer and began to teach. His followers called him the “Buddha” or “the enlightened one.” Buddha taught that our life in the physical world is merely an illusion. When people let go of their worldly pain and worries, they can unite with the universal soul and achieve a state of complete peace called nirvana. Like Hindus, Buddhists believe nothing is permanent, that life constantly moves through cycles of birth, death, and rebirth like the turning of a wheel. Although Buddha accepted the Hindu belief in reincarnation, he taught that people could achieve nirvana from their actions in this life alone, and he rejected the caste system. For these reasons, Buddhism became popular among the lower classes in India. Today Buddhism is a major world religion. Although it began in India, Buddhism spread to the east and declined in India as Buddhism was absorbed into Hinduism. Buddhists are now found in the greatest numbers in East Asia and Southeast Asia.

The world’s fourth great civilization also got its start along a river valley, the Yellow river of northeastern China where farmers grew millet and wheat. Farming later moved south to the Yangtze (YONG-zuh) river, where rice production led to an increase in China’s population. The land between the rivers became the center of Chinese civilization, the so-called “Middle Kingdom.” Early Chinese culture grew in relative isolation due to physical barriers and long distances that separated it from other major civilizations of Eurasia. The world’s highest mountain range, the Himalayas, separate China from India. The Chinese have long believed in a philosophy that recognizes a fundamental balance in nature between opposite but complimentary principles called yin and yang. Examples include day-night, hot-cold, wet-dry, and male-female. Central to Chinese philosophy and religion is a belief that people should avoid extremes and seek harmony with the balance of nature. (A philosophy is a system of basic beliefs about life.) With nearly one-fourth of the world’s population, China today is the world’s most populous country, and it has a fast-growing economy. China was a superpower in the past, and it has become a superpower again in this century. China and its neighboring countries of Mongolia, Korea, and Japan form a region bordering the Pacific Ocean known as
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