Main History of the World Map by Map

History of the World Map by Map

Much more than a history atlas, this book drops you right in the heart of the action, as 130 detailed maps tell the story of pivotal episodes in world history, from the first human migrations out of Africa to the race for space. After the foreword written by renowned broadcaster and historian Peter Snow, purpose-made regional and global maps present the history of the world as it happened, charting how events traced patterns on land and ocean - patterns of exploration, discovery, or conquest that created powerful empires, fragile colonies, or terrifying theaters of war. An interplay of text and graphics leads you around the page so that you can follow the story of civilizations through ancient, medieval, and modern times.But not every page is full of maps. At key points in History of the World Map by Map, broad, sweeping introductions provide a chance to step back and look at entire periods, such as World War 2, or to explore overarching themes, such as the Industrial Revolution. Picture spreads, meanwhile, focus on epoch-defining moments or developments, such as fascism and communism, and the invention of printing.

Year:
2018
Publisher:
DK Publishing
Language:
english
Pages:
362
ISBN 13:
9780241226148
File:
PDF, 152.74 MB
Download (pdf, 152.74 MB)

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HISTORY
O F  T H E  W O R L D
M A P  BY  M A P

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002-003_Title.indd   2 06/06/2018   15:02



HISTORY
O F  T H E  W O R L D
M A P  BY  M A P

F O R E W O R D  B Y

PETER SNOW

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CONTENTS

DK LONDON

DK INDIA

COBALT ID

Senior Editor  Dharini Ganesh  
 Editor Priyanjali Narain 

Assistant Editors  Aashirwad Jain,  
Shambhavi Thatte

Picture Researcher  Deepak Negi
Picture Research Manager   

Taiyaba Khatoon
Jackets Editorial Coordinator   

Priyanka Sharma
Managing Editor  Rohan Sinha

Managing Jackets Editor  Saloni Singh
Pre-production Manager  Balwant Singh  

Senior Cartographer  Subhashree Bharati
Cartographer  Reetu Pandey

Cartography Manager  Suresh Kumar

Designer  Darren Bland 
Art Director  Paul Reid

Editorial Director  Marek Walisiewicz

Senior Art Editor  Vaibhav Rastogi  
Project Art Editor  Sanjay Chauhan,  
Pooja Pipil
Art Editors  Anjali Sachar, Sonali Sharma, 
Sonakshi Singh
Assistant Art Editor  Mridushmita Bose
Managing Art Editor  Sudakshina Basu 
Jacket Designer  Suhita Dharamjit
Senior DTP Designers  Harish Aggarwal,  
Vishal Bhatia
DTP Designers  Ashok Kumar,  Nityanand Kumar
Production Manager  Pankaj Sharma 

Lead Senior Editor  Rob Houston
 Senior Editors  Peter Frances, Janet Mohun
Editors  Suhel Ahmed, Polly Boyd, Claire Gell, 

Martyn Page, Tia Sarkar, Kaiya Shang, Kate Taylor
Project Management  Briony Corbett

Managing Editor  Angeles Gavira Guerrero
Associate Publisher  Liz Wheeler

Publishing Director  Jonathan Metcalf

Cartographers  Simon Mumford, Ed Merritt, 
Martin Darlison, Helen Stirling

Senior Art Editors  Duncan Turner,  
Ina Stradins  
Project Art Editors  Steve Woosnam-Savage,  
Francis Wong
Designer  Ala Uddin
Jacket Design Development Manager  
Sophia MTT
Jacket Designer  Surabhi Wadhwa
Producer (Pre-production)   
Jacqueline Street-Elkayam
Producer  Jude Crozier
Managing Art Editor  Michael Duffy
Art Director  Karen Self
Design Director  Phil Ormerod

12 From apes to;  farmers

14 The first humans

16 Out of Africa

18 The first Australians

20 Peopling the Americas

22 The first farmers

24 Origins of agriculture 

26 Villages to towns

30 The first civilizations 

32 The first cities

34 Egypt of the pharaohs

36 The first writing

38 Minoans and Mycenaeans

40 Bronze Age China

42 Bronze Age collapse

44 The ancient Levant

46 The Iron Age

48 Assyria and Babylonia

50 Rise of the Persian Empire

52 First cities in the Americas 

54 The Phoenicians

56 The Greek city states

58 Greece and Persia at war

60 Alexander the Great

62 The Classical Age

64 Etruscans and the  
 rise of Rome

66 Rome builds its power base

68 Roman Empire at  
 its height

70 Roots of Indian history

72 Mauryan India

74 China’s first emperor

76 Terracotta army

78 Ancient American 
 civilizations 

80 Age of migrations

82 Han dynasty

84 The spread of Buddhism

86 The rise of Christianity

10 28
PREHISTORY   7 MYA–3000 bce THE ANCIENT WORLD   3000 bce–500 ce

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First published in Great Britain in 2018 by
Dorling Kindersley Limited, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL

Copyright © 2018 Dorling Kindersley Limited
A Penguin Random House Company

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

001-278615-Oct/2018

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, 
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or 

otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

 
ISBN: 978-0-2412-2614-8

Printed in Malaysia

A WORLD OF IDEAS:
SEE ALL THERE IS TO KNOW

www.dk.com

90 The Middle Ages

92 The Byzantine Empire

94 The ascent of Islam

96 Rule of the caliphs

98 The Vikings

100 The Normans

102 The Silk Road

104 Medieval renaissance

106 The Crusades

108 The inheritors of Rome

110 The Hundred Years War

112 Medieval European trade

114 The Black Death

116 The emperor and  
 the pope

118 The Holy Roman  
 Empire

120 Rise of the Ottomans

122 The Reconquista

124 Medieval East Asia

126 Tang and Song China

128 Medieval Korea and Japan

130 The Mongol conquests

132 Yuan China to the early Ming

134 Temple states of  
 Southeast Asia

136 African peoples and empires

138 Mansa Musa

140 The Polynesians

142 North American cultures

144 Aztec and Inca empires

148 The early modern world

150 Voyages of exploration

152 Spanish conquests  
 in the Americas

154 The Spanish in America

156 The colonization of  
 North America

158 The age of exchange

160 The Renaissance

162 The colonial spice trade

164 Printing

166 The Reformation

168 The Thirty Years War

170 British civil wars

172 Reign of the Ottomans

174 East meets West

176 Mughal India

88 146
178 China from the Ming  
 to the Qing

180 Japan unifies under  
 the Tokugawa

182 The Scientific Revolution

184 The Dutch golden age

MIDDLE AGES   500–1450 ce THE EARLY MODERN WORLD   1450–1700

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PREHISTORY 
Dr Rebecca Wragg-Sykes  Palaeolithic archaeologist and author,  
chercheur bénévole PACEA laboratory, Université de Bordeaux 

THE ANCIENT WORLD 
Prof Neville Morley  Professor of Classics and Ancient History,  
University of Exeter

Prof Karen Radner  Alexander von Humboldt Professor of the Ancient 
History of the Near and Middle East, University of Munich

THE MIDDLE AGES 
Dr Roger Collins  Honorary Fellow in the School  
of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh

THE EARLY MODERN WORLD,  
REVOLUTION AND INDUSTRY 
Dr Glyn Redford  FRHistS, Honorary Fellow, The Historical Association

PROGRESS AND EMPIRE,  
THE MODERN WORLD 
Prof Richard Overy  FBA, FRHistS, Professor of History,  
University of Exeter

CHINA, KOREA, AND JAPAN  
Jennifer Bond  Researcher, SOAS, University of London

INDIA  
Prof David Arnold  Professor of Asian and Global History,  
Warwick University

PRE-COLUMBIAN AMERICAS  
Dr Elizabeth Baquedano  Honorary Senior Lecturer,  
Institute of Archaeology, University College London

PREHISTORY 
David Summers, Derek Harvey

THE ANCIENT WORLD 
Peter Chrisp, Jeremy Harwood, Phil Wilkinson

THE MIDDLE AGES, THE EARLY  
MODERN WORLD 
Philip Parker

REVOLUTION AND INDUSTRY 
Joel Levy

PROGRESS AND EMPIRE  
Kay Celtel

THE MODERN WORLD 
Simon Adams, R G Grant, Sally Regan

CONSULTANTSCONTRIBUTORS

230 Cities and industry

232 Industrialized Europe 

234 Socialism and 
 anarchism

236 Transport and 
 communications

238 Mass Migrations

240 The age of imperialism

242 The new imperialism

244 Resistance and the Raj

246 Russian Empire expands

248 Africa colonized 

250 Foreign powers in China

252 Decline of Qing China

254 Japan transformed 

256 American Civil War

258 Science and innovation

260 Expansion of the US

262 Independent Latin America 

264 Germany and Italy unified

266 Balkan wars 

268 The eve of World War

188 The age of revolution

190 Battle for North America

192 The Seven Years War

194 The Agricultural 
 Revolution

196 The Atlantic slave trade

198 The American Revolution

200 South American 
 independence

202 The Enlightenment

204 The fate of Native 
 Americans

206 The French Revolution

208 Napoleon advances

210 Napoleon’s downfall

212 The Industrial 
 Revolution

214 Industrial Britain

216 Romanticism and 
 nationalism

218 The revolutions of 1848 

220 New Zealand and Australia

222 The abolition of slavery

224 Rise of British power in India

226 The Opium Wars

228186
PROGRESS AND EMPIRE   1850–1914REVOLUTION AND INDUSTRY   1700–1850

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348 Index

359 Acknowledgments

272 The modern world

274 World War I 

276 The trenches

278 The wider war

280 The Russian Revolution

282 Political extremism

284 Aftermath of the Great War 

286 The Great Depression

288 China and nationalism

290 Soviet Union under Stalin

292 The Spanish Civil War

294 World War II

296 Axis powers advance 

298 Occupied Europe

300 The war in the Pacific

302 Germany defeated 

304 Japan defeated

306 Hiroshima and 
 Nagasaki

308 Partition of India 

310 The founding of  
 communist China

312 Superpowers 

314 The Cold War

316 Korean War

318 Decolonization of  
 Southeast Asia

320 European unity

322 Decolonization of Africa

324 Rockets and the  
 space race

326 Civil rights and  
 student revolt

328 The Vietnam Wars

330 US interventions  
 in Latin America

332 Israel and the Middle East

334 Economic boom  
 and environmental cost

336 The collapse of 
 communism

338 War in Yugoslavia

340 Globalization

342 Iran and the Gulf Wars

344 The communications 
 revolution

346 Population and energy

270
THE MODERN WORLD   1914–PRESENT

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FOREWORD
This book tells the story of life on earth in more meticulous detail 
and with more arresting pictures than I’ve ever seen before. I believe 
that in this digital age, maps are more important than ever. People 
are losing sight of the need for them in a world where our knowledge 
is reduced to the distance between two postcodes. For me a journey 
– certainly the contemplation of a journey – is a voyage across a map. 
But this beautiful book offers the added dimension of a state-of-the-
art journey through time. These maps display the story of the world 
in delightfully accessible form. They demonstrate in a spectacular 
way how there is no substitute for the printed page, for the 
entrancing spread of colour across paper that we can touch and 

handle. The maps are large, the colours are bold. Text boxes spring 
out from places whose history matters. Clear and easily readable 
graphics reveal the ups and downs of empires, cultures, wars and 
other events both human and natural that have shaped our world 
from the beginning. 

To me, history without maps would be unintelligible. A country’s 
history is shaped by its geography – by its mountains and valleys, its 
rivers, its climate, its access to the sea, its raw materials and harvests 
just as much as it is shaped by its population, its industry, its 
relations with its neighbours and its takeover by invaders from 
abroad. This book is more than a historical atlas: it describes the 

008-009_Foreword.indd   8 06/06/2018   15:03



geography of history but adds revealing pictures as well. For me, the 
history of the First World War is admirably summed up by the map 
that describes the build-up to it on pages 268–69 and the following 
maps and accounts of the fighting including the telling picture  
of the trenches. 

I’ve been using maps to tell stories all my life as a television 
journalist and historian. The stories of the European Union and the 
collapse of Communism were my constant companions when 
recounting the events of the last half century. That part of recent 
history only makes sense if it is also described by maps like those on 
pages 320–21 and 336–37. I have spent many hours as a journalist 

making maps with graphics artists at the BBC and ITN to illustrate 
the story of wars in the Middle East and Vietnam. Far better ones are 
now displayed for us in this book on pages 328–29 and 332–33. No 
historian can do justice to the story of the rise and fall of the great 
empires like that of the French Emperor Napoleon without maps like 
that on pages 208–11.

For its depth of learning and its variety of ways of giving us a 
picture of the history of our planet, this magnificent account – map 
by map – is second to none. 

PETER SNOW, 2018

▽ Documenting the world
Pages from the Catalan Atlas, drawn and written in 1375, show Europe, north 
Africa, and Asia. Over time, the maps of cartographers pass into the hands  
of historians and continue to feed our knowledge of how and why the 
geography and politics of the world have changed.

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PREHISTORY
BEFORE WRITTEN RECORDS BEGAN IN AROUND 3000 BCE, THE STORY 
OF HUMANS WAS RECORDED FOR MILLIONS OF YEARS BY THE FOSSILS 

AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL TRACES OUR ANCESTORS LEFT BEHIND.

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12 P R E H I S TO RY  7  M YA – 3 0 0 0  B c e

Scientific evidence links all humans to apes. Specifically, 
chimpanzees are our closest non-human relatives, and 
DNA – the ultimate bloodline indicator – suggests that  
we separated from a common ancestor some 6.5 million 
years ago (MYA). Indeed, humans are apes – albeit in  
an upright, naked form. 

Monkeys, apes, and humans are primates that have a 
large brain, grasping digits, forward-facing eyes, and nails 
instead of claws. Fossilized remains of animals that lived  
in the distant past provide tantalizing evidence of just  
how apes became modern humans. Skeletons turn into 
fossils when they become mineralized into rock – a 
process that usually takes at least 10,000 years. Fossilized 
remains are usually fragmentary, but an 
expertise in anatomy helps scientists use 
the fossil record to reconstruct extinct 
species. Fossils can also be dated so 
scientists can build up a chronology  
of evolutionary change. For example, 
African fossils of a primate called 
Proconsul, dated to 21–14 MYA, resembled  
a monkey. But it lacked a tail – a feature 
more typical of apes – suggesting that 
Proconsul could have been the earliest 
known member of the ape family.

Hominids and hominins
Modern great apes (gorillas, orang-utans, 
and chimpanzees), humans, and their 
prehistoric relatives are united in a 
biological family called hominids. As well 

as lacking a tail, they have bigger brains than their monkey 
ancestors. This meant that many prehistoric hominids 
doubtless used tools to forage for food – just as chimpanzees 
do today. Great apes also became bigger than monkeys and 
many spent more time on the ground. One group evolved to 
walk on two legs, which freed grasping hands for other tasks. 

This group – called hominins – includes 
humans and their immediate ancestors, and 
dates back at least 6.2–6.0 million years to 
the species Orrorin tugenensis – a very early 
bipedal hominin found in Kenya. 

The first humans
Not all hominins were direct ancestors of 
living people, but at least one branch  
of the genus Australopithecus might have 
been. Belonging to the genus Homo, the 
first humans were fully bipedal, with 
arched feet that no longer had opposable 
grasping toes and an S-shaped spine 
centred above a wide pelvis. Such 
adaptations helped them run quickly  
on open ground. The earliest species – 
Homo habilis, from 2.4 MYA – may have 

△ Flint and stone
For nearly 2 million years, human 
technology was represented by  
stone flake tools and hand axes. 
These were made by hitting flint  
or other workable rock with stone  
to produce sharp cutting edges.

FROM APES TO FARMERS
The history of humankind is rooted in a part of the animal kingdom that includes 
monkeys, apes, and other primates. It took millions of years of evolution – over 
countless generations – for apelike ancestors to become modern Homo sapiens.

THE RISE OF  
MODERN HUMANS
Even before the emergence of 
modern humans (Homo sapiens) 
almost 300,000 YA, hominins had 
developed the traits that would 
make them a dominating force on 
the planet. From just under 1 MYA, 
hominins were controlling fire – 
for cooking, and later to help with 
manufacturing processes. But  
with Homo sapiens came a more 
complex culture. Archaeological 
evidence indicates that these 
modern humans dispersed widely 
from their centre of origin in 
Africa before 200,000 YA.

180,000 YA 160,000 YA 140,000 YA 120,000 YA

165,000 YA Earliest evidence  
of pigment use at Pinnacle Point, 
South Africa, for painting or as 
part of a tool handle

CULTURE

DISPERSAL

TECHNOLOGY

△ Lucy
Shown here are the fossilized 
remains of the apelike Lucy – 
a member of the genus 
Australopithecus from east 
Africa from over 3 MYA. The 
fossil is sufficiently complete 
to suggest that Lucy walked 
upright on two legs.

135–100,000 YA Seashells perforated 
and used as ornamental beads in  
Middle East and North Africa are first 
jewellery – and earliest evidence of drilling

185,000 YA Homo sapiens migrates  
from Africa and into Asia 1.5 million 
years after the first hominins first  
left the African continent

“We can see the focus, the centre of 
evolution, for modern humans in Africa.”

C H R I S  S T R I N G E R ,  B R I T I S H  A N T H R O P O L O G I S T

012-013_From_Apes_to_farmers.indd   12 06/06/18   3:33 PM



13F RO M  A P E S  TO  FA R M E R S

remained in Africa, but we know 
that later other Homo species 
dispersed widely across Eurasia.

The rise of Homo sapiens
Only one species of human – Homo 
sapiens – came to dominate the 
world after emerging from Africa 
about a quarter of a million years 
ago. Remarkably, brain capacity 
doubled between Homo habilis and 
Homo sapiens. Bigger brainpower 
meant that humans could skilfully 
manipulate the environment and 
resources around them – ultimately 
leading to the emergence of complex 
cultures and technologies. 

For much of its time, Homo sapiens 
coexisted with other human species. 
In Ice-Age Eurasia, chunky-bodied 
Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) 
successfully lived in a range  
of environmental conditions, 
developing their own advanced 
cultures. But the world’s climate became especially 
unsuitable, and only Homo sapiens prevailed. They spread 
further – reaching Australia by 65,000 YA and South 
America possibly by 18,500 YA. Evidently, Homo sapiens had 
the social structures to succeed in ways that their competitors 
could not. The first modern humans were efficient hunter-
gatherers, inventing new technologies that helped them 

acquire more food and travel further. This meant that they 
thrived in many different places, from the frozen Arctic to 
the hot tropics. Then, within the last 20,000 years, all around 
the world modern humans began to abandon their nomadic 
ways in favour of fixed settlements, turning their skills  
to farming the land, supporting bigger societies and – 
ultimately – setting the seeds of civilization itself.

◁ Close cousins 
Neanderthals – the closest extinct human 
species to modern humans, Homo sapiens – 
had larger skulls with more prominent 
eyebrows. Homo sapiens and Neanderthals 
were sufficiently similar to interbreed 
where they coexisted.

△ Early artists
These depictions of Ice Age animals  
on the walls of the Lascaux caves in 
southern France are about 17,000 years 
old. Similar paintings nearby show that 
prehistoric humans had developed a 
degree of creative expression as early 
as 30,000 years ago.

80,000 YA 0

40,000 YA Oldest  
securely dated 

painting includes  
a handprint in an 
Indonesian cave

65,000 YA  
Australia and  

New Guinea – then 
connected by land – 

are colonized by boat

60,000 YA Microliths in  
Africa – small stone tools, including 

blades – first used for cutting  
and scraping, the earliest known 

processing technology

30,000 YA Needles  
used for sewing in  
Europe and Russia

25,000 YA Siberian  
Homo sapiens settles on the 
continental shelf between Ice 
Age Russia and Alaska, before 
dispersing through the Americas

15,000 YA First use 
of ladders in Lascaux 
Caves, France

92,000 YA Evidence 
of the earliest known 
ritual burial of the dead 
at Qafzeh Cave, Israel

44,000 YA Homo sapiens  
migrate from Asia into 

Europe, mixing with 
European Neanderthals and 

eventually replacing them

28,000 YA Spectacular 
double child burial in  
eastern Europe shows 
complex hunter-gatherer 
cultures living on the steppes

5,000 YA A new wave of 
colonists – the Austronesians 
– migrates from Asia, across 
New Guinea, and reaches 
islands of the Pacific Ocean

20,000 YA60,000 YA 40,000 YA

012-013_From_Apes_to_farmers.indd   13 06/06/18   3:33 PM



14

E t h i o p i a n    H i g h l a n d s

G
r

e
a

t
 

 
R

i
f

t
 

 
V

a
l

l
e

y

A
T

L
A

N
T

I C
 

O
C

E
A

N

A F
R I C

A

Temara

Dar-es-Soltan
Jebel 

Irhoud

Tighenif

Hauah Fteah

Bahr el Ghazali

Middle Awash

Omo

Lake Turkana

Koobi Fora

Olduvai Gorge

Laetoli

Kabwe

Makapansgat

Border Cave

Klasies River Mouth

Die Kelders

Florisbad
Taung

Elandsfontein

Rabat

Lomekwi

Tugen Hills

Ndutu

Taramsa

Toros-Menalla

Singa

Casablanca

A t
l a

s   
  M

o u
n t a

i n s

C r a d l e  o fH u m a n k i n d

Rising Star 
Cave

N
ile

Congo

Z
am

bezi

Lake N
yasa

Lake Tanganyika

La
ke 

Vic
tor

ia

Madagascar

M e d i t e r r a n e a n    S e a

P R E H I S TO RY  7  M YA – 3 0 0 0  b c e

We have fossil evidence for the existence of about 20 different species 
of African “hominin” – members of the human lineage that diverged 
from that of chimpanzees 7–10 million years ago. Each has been 
assigned to a biological group or “genus”, but the relationships 
between the groups and species are still debated. Only certain 
hominins were the ancestors of modern humans; others, such as  
the Paranthropus species, may represent evolutionary dead ends.

Human evolution was not an inevitable, linear progression from  
apes. Some of our ancestors developed adaptations – in different 
combinations – that would ultimately mark out modern humans. 
Perhaps most notably, a larger brain enabled complex thought and 
behaviour, including the development of stone-tool technologies, 
while walking on two legs became the main form of locomotion. 

The earliest fossils assigned to our species – dated to around 
300,000 years ago – were found in Morocco, but other early 
specimens have been found widely dispersed across Africa. This  
has led scientists to believe that the evolution of modern humans 
probably happened on a continental scale.

300,000  YA The 
earliest remains of  
Homo sapiens in the 
fossil record were 
unearthed here in 
Morocco

“I think Africa was the cradle, the crucible that 
created us as Homo sapiens.”

PA L E O A N T H R O P O L O G I S T  D O N A L D  J O H A N S O N ,  2 0 0 6

THE FIRST 
HUMANS
The human story began in Africa 7 or 6 million years 
ago. Through the fossil record of this vast continent we 
can draw a complex family tree of human relatives of 
which our species, Homo sapiens, is the last to survive.

THE FIRST HUMANLIKE APES   7–5.5 MYA

The sparse record of the earliest hominins – 
Sahelanthropus and Orrorin – shows that 
although they had shorter faces and smaller 
teeth, they had brains no larger than those of 
chimpanzees. The sole Sahelanthropus skull was 
discovered in Chad, far removed from other 
hominin sites in eastern and southern Africa. 
Fossils of both Orrorin and Ardipithecus kadabba 
are thought to exhibit features linked to 
developing two-legged locomotion.

1

Sahelanthropus Orrorin Ardipithecus

EARLY HOMININ MIGRATION
Archaeological evidence from Asia and Europe suggests 
that by about 2 million years ago, hominins had begun  
to leave Africa for the first time – long before Homo 
sapiens began to disperse (see pp.16–17). Experts once 
assumed that the migration corresponded with the 
appearance of Homo ergaster, but older species might 
have been the pioneers – a 1.7-million-year-old fossil 
found in Dmanisi, Georgia, resembles the earlier  
Homo habilis. The earliest known hominin fossils from 
Southeast Asia are of Homo erectus – an Asian variant of 
Homo ergaster, found on the the island of Java and dating 
to 1.8 million years ago. Stone tools from the Nihewan 
Basin, China, date to 1.6 million years ago. Two sites in 
Spain’s Sierra de Atapuerca show that hominins had 
reached western Europe by 1.2 million years ago. 

Likely route

KEY

Sites of fossil finds

◁  Turkana Boy
The skull of a young, male Homo 
ergaster was found along with his 
well-preserved, nearly complete 
skeleton near Lake Turkana, Kenya. 
Because his brain was about 60 per 
cent the size of a modern human’s, 
his skull narrows immediately  
behind the eye sockets.

Sahelanthropus skull

E U R O P E

A S I A

A F R I C A

Boxgrove

Hexian

Nihewan

Lantian

Sangiran
Ngandong

Atapuerca Ceprano

Lake Turkana

Olduvai Gorge

Buia
Daka

Bodo

Swanscombe

Ubeidiya

Happisburgh
Mauer

Tautavel Isernia la Pineta

Konso-Gardula

Dmanisi

Nanjing

Yunxian

Mojokerto
Trinil

Narmada

Koobi Fora

Olorgesailie

Zhoukoudian

Steinheim

Petralona

Kocabas
1.6–1.3 MYA

1.8 MYA  

1.7 MYA

1.2 MYA0.95–0.5 MYA

MORE THAN
1.8 MYA

014-015_First_Humans.indd   14 06/06/18   4:04 PM



15

E t h i o p i a n    H i g h l a n d s

G
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A
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A

N

A F
R I C

A

Temara

Dar-es-Soltan
Jebel 

Irhoud

Tighenif

Hauah Fteah

Bahr el Ghazali

Middle Awash

Omo

Lake Turkana

Koobi Fora

Olduvai Gorge

Laetoli

Kabwe

Makapansgat

Border Cave

Klasies River Mouth

Die Kelders

Florisbad
Taung

Elandsfontein

Rabat

Lomekwi

Tugen Hills

Ndutu

Taramsa

Toros-Menalla

Singa

Casablanca

A t
l a

s   
  M

o u
n t a

i n s

C r a d l e  o fH u m a n k i n d

Rising Star 
Cave

N
ile

Congo

Z
am

bezi

Lake N
yasa

Lake Tanganyika

La
ke 

Vic
tor

ia

Madagascar

M e d i t e r r a n e a n    S e a

T H E  F I R S T  H U M A N S

HOMO SAPIENS PREVAILS      
300,000–50,000 YA

When the first Homo sapiens became established, all 
other known African hominins died out, except one. 
Fossil remains recently dated to 335,000–236,000 
years ago suggest that a species named Homo naledi 
was inhabiting southern Africa at about the time Homo 
sapiens first appeared. Whether the species interacted 
is unknown, but with Homo naledi’s disappearance, 
our species would have had Africa to itself.

4

OUR OWN GENUS APPEARS      
2.58 MYA–300,000 YA

Homo habilis, the first member of our genus in the 
fossil record, evolved and, for a time, lived alongside 
later Australopithecus and Paranthropus 
species. Stone tools from this 
period have been found, but it  
is difficult to assign them to 
species. Homo ergaster was  
the first hominin to have  
humanlike body proportions. 
It likely gave rise to Homo 
heidelbergensis, from which 
modern humans evolved.

3

4.2 MYA Numerous 
species of Paranthropus and 

early human ancestors 
were first discovered in 
the Omo-Turkana Basin

294,000–224,000  YA 
A partial cranium found  
at Florisbad, South Africa, 
appears to be that of a 
transitional individual with 
features common in both 
Homo heidelbergensis  
and Homo sapiens

c. 200,000  YA Excavations at 
this cave near the Libyan coast 

have produced evidence of 
continual occupation by 

modern humans for many 
thousands of years

335,000–236,000  YA  
The Cradle of Humankind 

site contains the Rising Star 
Cave system where fossils of 

Homo naledi were first 
discovered in 2013

HUMANLIKE APES DIVERSIFY      5.3–2.58  MYA

Fossils from this time indicate a diversity of hominin 
species. Fossils of Ardipithecus ramidus, found in Ethiopia, 
include the oldest near-complete hominin skeleton. Later, 
Kenyanthropus – known from a single skull – and early 
Paranthropus – with its enormous molars – lived alongside 
several species of the genus Australopithecus, one of  
which left the famous Laetoli footprints 3.7–3.0 MYA 
(right), showing that a striding gait had evolved.

2

HOMININ FOSSIL RECORD
The discovery of human fossils and artefacts across Africa has helped identify 
different genera and species of early humans. This map shows key locations 
of fossil remains and artefacts, along with the era in which their owners 
once lived. The dates of individual finds and periods are given in terms  
of “millions of years ago” (MYA) or simply “years ago” (YA).

8 MYA 6 MYA 4 MYA 2 MYA 0

1
2
3
4

TIMELINE

Homo naledi

Homo sapiens

Australopithecus

Paranthropus

c.1.8–1.6 MYA  
One of our earliest ancestors, 
Homo habilis, lived here 
alongside Paranthropus boisei 
for thousands of years

c.350,000  YA  
Found in 1973, the Ndutu 
cranium has features common to 
both Homo erectus and archaic 
Homo sapiens, and has been 
assigned to Homo heidelbergensis

3.6–3 MYA The discovery of 
Australopithecus bahrelghazali fossils 
in Chad extended the known  
range of Australopithecus species

300,000–125,000   YA  
The very robust Homo 

heidelbergensis cranium found 
in Kabwe, Zambia, in 1921, 

once held a brain approaching 
the size of modern humans’

3.3 MYA The oldest stone 
tools ever discovered, from 

the archaeological site of 
Lomekwi, pre-date the 

appearance of the  
Homo genus

Handaxe, probably H. ergaster

5.8 MYA The history of hominin 
occupation of the Middle Awash 
site in Ethiopia’s Afar Depression 
stretches back to the time of 
Ardipithecus kadabba

Australopithecus

Paranthropus

Homo habilis

Homo ergaster

Homo 
heidelbergensis

Ardipithecus

Kenyanthropus

014-015_First_Humans.indd   15 06/06/2018   16:23



P R E H I S TO RY  7  M YA – 3 0 0 0  b c e16

S
A

H
U

L

A
F

R
I

C
A

A S I
A

E U
R O

P E

Matenkupkum,
Balof, and Panakiwuk

Huon Peninsula

Jerimalai

Yamashita-cho

Tianyuan Cave

Zhoukoudian

Ust-mil

Mal’ta

Malaia Syia

Kara-Bom

Denisova Cave

Ust Karakol

Mamontovaya
Kurya

Byzovaia

Kostenki

Bacho Kiro

Misliya Cave

Jebel Faya

Herto / 
Middle Awash

Singa

Omo Kibish

Laetoli

Border Cave

Florisbad

Klasies River MouthBlombos 
Caves

Jwalapuram

Balangoda
Lenggong Valley

Tam Pa
Ling caves

Skhul

Qafzeh

Taramsa

Pestera
cu Oase

Cioclovina

Mladec

Vogelherd

Kents Cavern

Les Rois

Lagar Velho

Temara

Dar-es-Soltan

Jebel Irhoud

Hohle Fels

Chatelperron

Gorham’s Cave

Hauah Fteah

Yana

Teshik Tash

Okladnikov
Cave

Al Wusta

Migration routes 

Fossil site

Archaeological site

EUROPE COLONIZED    50,000–25,000 YA

Despite its relative proximity to Africa, modern 
humans did not start to colonize Europe until 
around 50,000 years ago. Early sites suggest that 
they spread along coastlines and rivers, starting  
in the eastern Mediterranean. Although little  
fossil evidence exists, the rich archaeological 
material includes the first figurative carvings  
and musical instruments.

4

MIGRATION OF EARLY HUMANS
The series of arrows on this map represents  
the probable migration routes of early modern 
humans based on current archaeological and 
genetic evidence. Also highlighted are some of  
the most significant archaeological sites that have 
yielded tools and cultural evidence, and locations 
where important fossils have been discovered.

THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO

TIMELINE

3
4
5
6
7

2
1

300 250 150 100 50 0200

INTERACTION WITH NEANDERTHALS    
50,000–28,000 YA

Neanderthals had been living in Europe for 
hundreds of thousands of years before modern 
humans arrived. Although the timing and locations 
are unknown, ancient genetics suggests thousands 
of interbreeding events. Some fossils attributed to 
modern humans show features associated with 
Neanderthals, leading some scientists to speculate 
that these individuals may be hybrids.

5

Fossil site Archaeological site

EARLY ASIAN EXPANSIONS    
194,000–88,000  YA

The earliest evidence of modern humans living 
outside Africa are a partial jaw and teeth from 
Misliya Cave in Israel, dated to 194,000–177,000 
years ago. Fossils from Skhul and Qafzeh, also in 
Israel, dated to around 120,000 years ago possibly 
represent a subsequent wave of expansion. The 
discovery of an 88,000-year-old finger bone in Al 
Wusta, Saudi Arabia, has extended the range of 
early migrations to the Arabian Peninsula.

2

Migration routes Fossil site

EASTERN COASTAL ROUTE    
80,000–40,000  YA

The genetic trail of modern humans leaving Africa 
leads through the Middle East, then along the  
coast of south Asia. People living off rich coastal 
resources may have made swift progress. Fossil 
evidence proves that they reached Borneo by 
40,000 years ago, while Australian sites have  
been dated to 65,000 years ago.

3

Migration routes 

Fossil site

Archaeological site

HOMO SAPIENS IN AFRICA    
300,000–70,000 YA

Before Homo sapiens first left Africa they flourished 
as a species and began to exhibit what we might 
recognize as “modern” behaviour. Excavations at 
the Blombos Caves, on the southern tip of Africa, 
have produced some of the earliest evidence of 
complex thought and innovation, including 
jewellery, engraved stones, refined bone tools, 
projectile weapons, and painting materials.

1

Fossil site Archaeological site

Land exposed 
due to lower sea 
level 20,000 YA

KEY

42,000–37,000 YA DNA extracted from 
remains of Homo sapiens from Pestera  
cu Oase, Romania, is estimated to be 5–11 
per cent Neanderthal, meaning that it had a 
Neanderthal relation within 4–6 generations

38,700–36,200  YA   
A male from Kostenki is  
one of the oldest modern 
humans found in Europe 

300,000 YA Jebel Irhoud is the site of the 
earliest Homo sapiens yet found – a kind of 
proto-Homo sapiens with a modern, flat face 
but a primitive rear skull

38,000–30,000 YA Balangoda 
Man in Sri Lanka represents the 
earliest reliably dated record of 

anatomically modern humans  
in south Asia

35,000 YA Border Cave 
yielded the Lebombo  

Bone to archaeologists – 
this bears marks suggesting 

a counting tally, similar  
to those used in recent 
times by the San people  

of the Kalahari

24,000  YA According to DNA analysis, 
Mal’ta Boy shares a close ancestry with 

the male found in Kostenki, Europe 

016-017_Out_of_Africa.indd   16 06/06/18   4:04 PM



O U T  O F  A F R I C A 17

S
A

H
U

L

A
F

R
I

C
A

A S I
A

E U
R O

P E

Matenkupkum,
Balof, and Panakiwuk

Huon Peninsula

Jerimalai

Yamashita-cho

Tianyuan Cave

Zhoukoudian

Ust-mil

Mal’ta

Malaia Syia

Kara-Bom

Denisova Cave

Ust Karakol

Mamontovaya
Kurya

Byzovaia

Kostenki

Bacho Kiro

Misliya Cave

Jebel Faya

Herto / 
Middle Awash

Singa

Omo Kibish

Laetoli

Border Cave

Florisbad

Klasies River MouthBlombos 
Caves

Jwalapuram

Balangoda
Lenggong Valley

Tam Pa
Ling caves

Skhul

Qafzeh

Taramsa

Pestera
cu Oase

Cioclovina

Mladec

Vogelherd

Kents Cavern

Les Rois

Lagar Velho

Temara

Dar-es-Soltan

Jebel Irhoud

Hohle Fels

Chatelperron

Gorham’s Cave

Hauah Fteah

Yana

Teshik Tash

Okladnikov
Cave

Al Wusta

Ancient hominins had moved from  
Africa into Asia and Europe well over  
a million years before our species first 
appeared (see p.14). But the details of 

how Homo sapiens relates to these 
earlier species are still emerging 
gradually with every fossil and 
archaeological discovery from the 
period. Genetic and archaeological 
evidence now overwhelmingly 
favours the Recent African Origin 
model, also known as the “Out-of-
Africa” theory, which proposes that 
Homo sapiens evolved in Africa and 
later spread across the Old World, 
replacing all other hominin species.

Homo sapiens first left Africa 
some time after 200,000 years ago, 
and some groups appear to have 

reached east Asia by at least 80,000 

“I, too, am convinced that our ancestors  
came from Africa.”

K E N YA N  PA L A E O A N T H R O P O L O G I S T  R I C H A R D  L E A K E Y,  2 0 0 5

years ago, and perhaps as early as 
120,000 years ago. Either via the Horn 
of Africa or the Sinai Peninsula, the first 
migrants travelled east along Asia’s 
southern coastline, and either north 
into China or eastwards across 
Southeast Asia. Subsequent groups 
headed through central and eastern 
Asia and finally northwest into Europe. 

As they moved into new territories, 
Homo sapiens‘ progress may have been 
hindered, particularly in Europe, by 
their encounters with other hominins, 
including Neanderthals and 
Denisovans. Little is yet known of  
the Denisovans, but the Neanderthal 
was the first fossil hominin discovered 
and is now known from thousands of 
specimens. Evidence of interaction with 
both species lives on in our genes.

△ The emergence of art
The Venus of Brassempouy (France), 
dating to about 25,000 years ago, 
features one of the earliest known 
representations of the human face.

OUT OF AFRICA
The modern human, Homo sapiens, is a truly global species, inhabiting 
every continent. Our colonization of the planet started before 
177,000 years ago, when groups began dispersing from their African 
homeland. By 40,000 years ago, our species lived in northern Europe 
and central and east Asia, and had crossed the sea to Australia. 

THE STORY IN OUR GENES
EVIDENCE IN HUMAN DNA 

The Vedda people of Sri Lanka 
DNA analysis has been used to show that these 

are the earliest native inhabitants of Sri Lanka. 

By comparing the genetic make-up of living 
people from all over the world, scientists are 
able to analyse the evolutionary relationships 
between different populations. This has 
enabled them to confirm our African origins  
and describe how and when our species 
spread around the world. Genetic material 
(DNA) has also been extracted from the 
fossils of some extinct species. Analysis of 
the DNA of Neanderthals and Denisovans 
has revealed that they both interbred with 
Homo sapiens and contributed some of their 
genes to modern human populations. 

Migration routes 

Fossil site

Archaeological site

CENTRAL TO EAST ASIA     
120,000–45,000  YA

Populations that spread to central and eastern Asia 
probably came from those that had originally 
colonized coastal southern Asia. The cold, bleak 
environments they encountered to the north would 
have demanded great adaptability. Those that 
reached the far northeast would give rise to the 
populations that went on to colonize the Americas.

7

MYSTERIOUS DENISOVANS     
150,000–50,000 YA

DNA analysis of a finger bone and two teeth 
from Denisova Cave in Siberia has identified a 
previously unknown and distinct population, 
the Denisovans. Although their remains have 
only been found at one site, their genes indicate 
that they were widespread. Contemporaries of 
the Neanderthals, they also interbred with this 
species, as well as with Homo sapiens.

6

Fossil site

40,000 YA Around 70 
stone axes were found 

buried in dated volcanic 
sediment layers

45,000 YA Tools, 
along with mammoth 

and rhinoceros 
bones, show humans 

living above the 
Arctic Circle  

during the Ice Age

120,000–80,000 YA 
Human remains at 
Tianyuan cave are the 
oldest in east Asia

016-017_Out_of_Africa.indd   17 06/06/18   4:04 PM



18 P R E H I S TO RY  7  M YA – 3 0 0 0  b c e

Nawarla
Gabarnmung
45,000 YA

Madjedbebe
Rock Shelter

65,000 YA

Upper 
Swan River 
40,000 YA

Devil’s Lair
48,000 – 43,000 YA

Willandra Lakes
40,000 YA

Penrith
50,000 – 40,000 YA

Tasmania
30,000 YA

A U S T R A L I A

During the last ice age, Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania were 
joined in a single landmass (see p.17), which was colonized by a 
seafaring people who crossed the seas from Asia on bamboo vessels. 
These people were the first Australians. Their journey through the 
continent followed coastlines and river valleys. Archaeological evidence 

suggests that by 30,000 years ago, they had 
spread far and wide, from Tasmania in the 
south to the Swan River in the west and 
northwards into New Guinea.

Indigenous Australians 
Australia’s indigenous peoples were 
seminomadic; instead of developing 
agricultural societies, they moved with  
the seasons. They lived in small family 
groups but were connected through 
extensive social networks. Already adept 
at hunting and gathering, they developed 
new technologies such as boomerangs, 
fish traps, and stone axes shaped by 

grinding. Over time, the groups became culturally diverse. In the far 
north, people of the Torres Strait – between Australia and New Guinea 
– became distinct from the Australian Aborigines. Aboriginal life 
became centred on relationships between people and the natural 
world, or “Country”, which included animals, plants, and rocks.  
These links, which have lasted into modern life, are formalized in the 
“Dreaming”: oral histories of creation combined with moral codes , 
some of which are reflected in art.

THE COLONIZATION OF AUSTRALIA

THE FIRST 
AUSTRALIANS
More than 60,000 years ago, hardy, resourceful people 
arrived in Australia after crossing the seas from Asia.  
They became Aboriginal Australians and went on to 
establish a unique way of life with a distinct culture. 

The earliest known archaeological 
sites in Australia are 65,000 years 
old – a date that conforms with 
genetic evidence for the origins  
of indigenous Australians. Fossils 
of humans and their animal prey, 
as well as artefacts from the time, 
indicate that populations were 
centred around coastlines and  
the Murray–Darling river basins.

Archaeological site
pre-30,000 YA

KEY

△ Ancient art
Discovered in western Australia  
in 1891, the ancient Bradshaw  
rock paintings show human figures 
engaged in display or hunting.

018-019_First_Australians.indd   18 05/06/18   11:32 AM



19T H E  F I R S T  A U S T R A L I A N S

Part of the landscape
The Jawoyn people of northern Australia have  
been producing spectacular rock art for more  
than 30,000 years. Their paintings often feature 
marsupials and are predominantly red and white.

018-019_First_Australians.indd   19 06/06/18   7:16 PM



P R E H I S TO RY  7  M YA – 3 0 0 0  b c e20

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o 
ea

st
w

ar
ds

 
de

ep
 in

to
 th

e 
A

m
az

on
 b

as
in

 o
r 

ac
ro

ss
 P

at
ag

on
ia

.

5

O
R

IG
IN

S 
O

F 
A

R
C

T
IC

 IN
D

IG
EN

O
U

S 
PE

O
PL

ES
   

 
5,

00
0 

YA

W
ith

in
 th

e 
la

st
 5

,0
00

 y
ea

rs
, t

he
 a

nc
es

to
rs

 o
f t

od
ay

’s
 

In
ui

t,
 In

up
ia

t,
 a

nd
 Y

up
ik

 p
eo

pl
es

 e
nt

er
ed

 A
m

er
ic

a.
 

Li
ke

 th
e 

ea
rl

ie
r 

co
lo

ni
st

s,
 th

ey
 p

ro
ba

bl
y 

ar
ri

ve
d 

fr
om

 
no

rt
he

as
te

rn
 A

si
a,

 b
ut

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ta

ye
d 

in
 th

e 
no

rt
h.

 T
he

 
co

m
pl

ex
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ki
lls

 th
at

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llo

w
ed

 th
em

 to
 li

ve
 a

nd
 h

un
t i

n 
th

e 
A

rc
tic

 a
re

 s
til

l p
ra

ct
is

ed
 to

da
y.

6

A
rc

ha
eo

lo
gi

ca
l s

it
e

A
rc

ha
eo

lo
gi

ca
l s

it
e

FO
U

N
D

ER
 A

M
ER

IC
A

N
S 

   
26

,0
00

–1
3,

00
0 

YA

G
en

et
ic

 e
vi

de
nc

e 
in

di
ca

te
s 

th
at

 m
os

t e
ar

ly
 N

or
th

 
A

m
er

ic
an

s 
ar

os
e 

fr
om

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ne

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f t

w
o 

br
an

ch
es

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f a

 
po

pu
la

tio
n 

or
ig

in
at

in
g 

in
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as
t A

si
a.

 T
he

se
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om
m

on
 

an
ce

st
or

s 
of

 A
nc

ie
nt

 B
er

in
gi

an
s 

an
d 

to
da

y’
s 

N
at

iv
e 

A
m

er
ic

an
s’

 a
nc

es
to

rs
 w

er
e 

bl
oc

ke
d 

by
 ic

e 
sh

ee
ts

 
be

fo
re

 m
ov

in
g 

pa
st

 A
la

sk
a.

 T
he

 fi
rs

t A
m

er
ic

an
s 

w
en

t 
fu

rt
he

r 
so

ut
h 

an
d 

in
to

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an

ad
a 

w
he

n 
re

ce
di

ng
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e 
sh

ee
ts

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xp

os
ed

 c
oa

st
al

 a
nd

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te

ri
or

 r
ou

te
s.

2
N

O
RT

H
 A

M
ER

IC
A

N
 C

U
LT

U
R

ES
   

  
15

,0
00

–1
0,

00
0 

YA

M
ul

tip
le

 p
op

ul
at

io
n 

di
sp

er
sa

ls
 p

us
he

d 
on

 th
ro

ug
h 

N
or

th
 A

m
er

ic
a,

 b
ut

 a
rc

ha
eo

lo
gi

ca
l e

vi
de

nc
e 

is
 

do
m

in
at

ed
 b

y 
st

on
e 

ar
te

fa
ct

s 
le

ft
 b

y 
pe

op
le

s 
of

 th
e 

so
-c

al
le

d 
C

lo
vi

s 
cu

ltu
re

, a
ro

un
d 

13
,0

00
 Y

A
. N

am
ed

 
af

te
r 

an
 a

rc
ha

eo
lo

gi
ca

l s
ite

 in
 N

ew
 M

ex
ic

o,
 th

e 
C

lo
vi

s 
pe

op
le

 w
er

e 
m

ob
ile

 h
un

te
r-

ga
th

er
er

s 
w

ho
 u

se
d 

to
ol

s 
to

 k
ill

 a
nd

 b
ut

ch
er

 la
rg

e 
an

im
al

s,
 s

uc
h 

as
 m

am
m

ot
hs

.

3

16
,0

00
 Y

A
 6

50
,0

00
 a

rt
ef

ac
ts

, m
ai

nl
y 

bl
ad

es
 a

nd
 fl

ak
es

, c
ou

ld
 in

di
ca

te
 

pe
rm

an
en

t 
qu

ar
ry

in
g 

si
te

13
,0

00
 Y

A
 E

vi
de

nc
e 

 
of

 s
to

ne
 s

pe
ar

he
ad

s 
an

d 
bu

tc
he

re
d 

m
as

to
do

n

13
,0

00
 Y

A
 H

um
an

 r
em

ai
ns

 
on

 o
ffs

ho
re

 is
la

nd
 in

di
ca

te
 

po
ss

ib
le

 u
se

 o
f w

at
er

cr
af

t

14
,0

00
–1

3,
60

0 
YA

  
D

at
es

 o
f w

oo
de

n 
to

ol
s 

m
at

ch
 lo

ca
l F

ir
st

 N
at

io
n’

s 
(H

ei
lts

uk
 N

at
io

n’
s)

 o
ra

l 
hi

st
or

y 
of

 it
s 

co
lo

ni
za

tio
n

11
,2

90
 Y

A
 C

lo
vi

s,
 fo

r 
m

an
y 

ye
ar

s,
 t

ho
ug

ht
 t

o 
be

 t
he

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ld

es
t 

an
th

ro
po

lo
gi

ca
l d

ep
os

it 
in

 
N

or
th

 A
m

er
ic

a

13
,0

00
 Y

A
 B

la
de

s 
an

d 
fla

ke
 t

oo
ls

, b
ut

 w
ith

ou
t 

bu
ri

ns
 (

ch
is

el
-li

ke
 e

dg
es

), 
at

 U
sh

ki
 c

om
pl

ex

16
–1

4,
00

0 
YA

 O
ne

 o
f 

th
e 

ol
de

st
 s

ite
s 

in
cl

ud
in

g 
no

n-
C

lo
vi

s 
to

ol
s 

an
d 

a 
ra

ng
e 

of
 p

la
nt

s 
ga

th
er

ed
 

fo
r 

fo
od

, i
nc

lu
di

ng
 s

ee
ds

, 
fr

ui
ts

, a
nd

 c
or

n

14
,6

00
 Y

A
 E

vi
de

nc
e 

of
 

bu
tc

he
ri

ng
 o

f m
as

to
do

ns

14
,0

00
 Y

A
 H

um
an

 c
op

ro
lit

es
 

(p
re

se
rv

ed
 fa

ec
es

)

14
,0

00
 Y

A
 M

ic
ro

bl
ad

es
 

si
m

ila
r 

to
 t

ho
se

 u
se

d 
in

 
ce

nt
ra

l S
ib

er
ia

13
,0

00
 Y

A
 T

oo
ls

 
si

m
ila

r 
to

 t
ho

se
 o

f 
U

sh
ki

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om

pl
ex

12
,6

00
 Y

A
 C

lo
vi

s-
ty

pe
 in

fa
nt

 
(A

nz
ic

k-
1)

 is
 fi

rs
t 

an
ci

en
t 

N
at

iv
e 

A
m

er
ic

an
 D

N
A

 s
am

pl
e 

pr
ov

id
in

g 
a 

fu
ll 

ge
ne

tic
 s

eq
ue

nc
e 

24
,0

00
 Y

A
 M

am
m

ot
h 

bo
ne

 
an

d 
fla

ke
s 

in
di

ca
te

 p
os

si
bl

e 
ea

st
er

n 
re

ac
h 

of
 Y

an
a 

cu
ltu

re
 fr

om
 S

ib
er

ia

15
,0

00
 Y

A
 O

ld
es

t 
C

lo
vi

s 
ar

te
fa

ct
s,

 p
os

si
bl

y 
us

ed
 fo

r 
w

or
ki

ng
 w

oo
d 

an
d 

bo
ne

20
–1

9,
00

0 
YA

 B
ut

ch
er

in
g 

m
ar

ks
 o

n 
m

am
m

ot
h 

bo
ne

s 
ar

e 
po

ss
ib

le
 e

vi
de

nc
e 

fo
r 

on
e 

of
 e

ar
lie

st
 s

ou
th

w
ar

d 
m

ov
em

en
ts

 
of

 h
um

an
s 

fr
om

 ic
e-

lo
ck

ed
 n

or
th

13
,0

00
 Y

A
 E

vi
de

nc
e 

 
of

 t
ra

ns
iti

on
 fr

om
 

hu
nt

er
-g

at
he

re
r 

to
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ar
ly

 
fa

rm
in

g 
se

tt
le

m
en

ts

M
ov

em
en

t 
of

 p
eo

pl
e

M
ov

em
en

t 
of

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eo

pl
e

M
ov

em
en

t 
of

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eo

pl
e

A
rc

ha
eo

lo
gi

ca
l s

it
e

A
rc

ha
eo

lo
gi

ca
l s

it
e

11
,5

00
 Y

A
 D

ou
bl

e 
ch

ild
 b

ur
ia

l, 
on

e 
of

 
w

hi
ch

, X
ac

h’
ite

e’
aa

ne
nh

 T
’e

ed
e 

G
aa

y 
(S

un
ri

se
 G

ir
l C

hi
ld

), 
pr

ov
id

ed
 D

N
A

 
ev

id
en

ce
 o

f A
nc

ie
nt

 B
er

in
gi

an
 p

eo
pl

e

13
,8

00
 Y

A
 P

re
-C

lo
vi

s 
st

on
e 

to
ol

 e
m

be
dd

ed
 in

 b
on

e

020-021_Peopling_of_the_Americas.indd   20 06/06/18   4:04 PM



P E O P L I N G  T H E  A M E R I C A S 21

R
o c

k

y  
  

M
o

u n
t a i n s

L
a

u
r

e
n

t
id

e
Ic

e 
 S

h
e

e
t

C
o

r
d

i l
l e

r a
n  

 

Ic
e  

 S
h

e
e

t

S
O

U
T

H
A

M
E

R
I

C
A

N
O

R
T

H
A

M
E

R
I

C
A

B
E

R
IN

G
IA

S
IB

E
R

IA
N

en
an

a

Sw
an

 P
oi

nt

U
pw

ar
d

Su
n 

R
iv

er

A
nz

ic
k

U
sh

ki
 c

om
pl

ex

Bl
ue

fis
h 

C
av

e 
an

d 
O

ld
 C

ro
w

 R
iv

er

G
au

lt

Ix
ta

pa
n

T
ai

m
a-

T
ai

m
a

La
go

a 
Sa

nt
a

Pi
ed

ra
 

M
us

eo

Fe
ll’

s
C

av
e

Q
ue

br
ad

a
Sa

nt
a 

Ju
lia

M
on

te
V

er
de

Pa
ge

-
La

ds
on

T
op

pe
r

M
ea

do
w

cr
of

t
R

oc
ks

he
lte

r

C
lo

vi
s

La
 S

en
a

an
d 

Lo
ve

w
el

l

T
riq

ue
t I

sla
nd

M
an

is
m

as
to

do
n

Pa
is

le
y 

C
av

e

A
rl

in
gt

on
 

Sp
ri

ng
s

G
RE

EN
LA

N
D

A n d e s

PA
C

IF

IC
  

O
C

E
A

N

◁
 C

lo
vi

s 
sp

ea
rh

ea
ds

 
Bi

fa
cia

lly
 w

or
ke

d 
(c

hi
pp

ed
 in

to
 

sh
ap

e 
on

 e
ac

h 
sid

e)
 fl

in
t p

oi
nt

s 
w

er
e 

ch
ar

ac
te

ris
tic

 p
ro

du
ct

s  
of

 C
lo

vi
s t

ec
hn

ol
og

y 
ac

ro
ss

  
N

or
th

 A
m

er
ic

a.

So
m

e 
24

,0
00

 y
ea

rs
 a

go
 th

e 
w

or
ld

 w
as

 lo
ck

ed
 in

 a
n 

ic
e 

ag
e,

 w
he

n 
an

 
A

rc
tic

 ic
e 

sh
ee

t c
ov

er
ed

 m
uc

h 
of

 th
e 

no
rt

he
rn

 w
or

ld
. W

ith
 s

o 
m

uc
h 

w
at

er
 fr

oz
en

 in
 g

la
ci

er
s,

 o
ce

an
 le

ve
ls

 w
er

e 
lo

w
 e

no
ug

h 
to

 e
xp

os
e 

a 
co

n
ne

ct
io

n 
of

 la
nd

, k
no

w
n 

as
 B

er
in

gi
a,

 b
et

w
ee

n 
A

si
a 

an
d 

N
or

th
 

A
m

er
ic

a.
 T

h
is

 m
ea

nt
 th

at
 p

eo
pl

e 
co

ul
d 

w
al

k 
ac

ro
ss

 fr
om

 o
ne

 
co

nt
in

en
t t

o 
th

e 
ot

he
r, 

un
ti

l t
he

ir
 w

ay
 b

ec
am

e 
bl

oc
ke

d 
as

 ic
e 

sh
ee

ts
 

cl
os

ed
 in

 o
n 

th
em

. T
he

re
, A

m
er

ic
a’

s 
fo

un
di

ng
 p

eo
pl

es
 w

er
e 

is
ol

at
ed

 
fo

r t
ho

us
an

ds
 o

f y
ea

rs
, u

nt
il 

w
ar

m
er

 ti
m

es
 m

el
te

d 
th

e 
ic

e 
an

d 
op

en
ed

 u
p 

co
rr

id
or

s 
to

 th
e 

so
ut

h,
 p

os
si

bl
y 

as
 e

ar
ly

 a
s 

20
,0

00
 Y

A
. 

D
N

A
 e

vi
de

nc
e 

fr
om

 a
rc

ha
eo

lo
gi

ca
l s

ite
s 

an
d 

th
e 

D
N

A
 o

f N
at

iv
e 

A
m

er
ic

an
s 

al
iv

e 
to

da
y 

sh
ow

s 
th

at
 t

w
o 

di
st

in
ct

 p
op

ul
at

io
ns

 s
pl

it 
fr

om
 

th
e 

fo
un

di
ng

 g
ro

up
 th

at
 h

ad
 e

nt
er

ed
 th

e 
ne

w
 la

nd
s 

ac
ro

ss
 B

er
in

gi
a.

 

PE
O

PL
IN

G
 T

H
E 

A
M

ER
IC

A
S 

By
 t

he
 t

im
e 

C
ol

um
bu

s 
se

t f
oo

t i
n 

th
e 

A
m

er
ic

as
 in

 1
49

2,
 t

he
 c

on
tin

en
ts

 h
ad

 b
ee

n 
pe

op
le

d 
fo

r 
th

ou
sa

nd
s 

of
 y

ea
rs

. T
he

 r
ea

l d
is

co
ve

re
rs

 o
f t

he
se

 n
ew

 w
or

ld
s 

ha
d 

co
m

e 
fr

om
 S

ib
er

ia
.  

T
he

y 
co

nq
ue

re
d 

ic
e 

an
d 

sn
ow

 a
nd

 t
re

kk
ed

 e
no

rm
ou

s 
di

st
an

ce
s 

to
 c

ol
on

iz
e 

a 
la

nd
m

as
s 

 
of

 p
ra

ir
ie

la
nd

, d
es

er
t,

 r
ai

nf
or

es
t,

 a
nd

 m
ou

nt
ai

ns
.

C
O

LO
N

IZ
IN

G
 A

 N
E

W
 W

O
R

L
D

G
en

et
ic

 s
tu

di
es

 a
nd

 a
rc

ha
eo

lo
gi

ca
l e

vi
de

nc
e 

fr
om

 s
ite

s 
in

 S
ib

er
ia

, 
N

or
th

 A
m

er
ic

a,
 a

nd
 S

ou
th

 A
m

er
ic

a 
sh

ow
 th

at
 h

um
an

s 
m

ov
ed

 o
ve

r 
a 

la
nd

 b
ri

dg
e 

jo
in

in
g 

A
m

er
ic

a 
to

 A
si

a 
at

 le
as

t 3
0–

20
,0

00
 y

ea
rs

 a
go

 
(Y

A
). 

A
s 

th
e 

la
nd

 e
m

er
ge

d 
fr

om
 a

n 
ic

e 
ag

e,
 th

es
e 

pe
op

le
 th

en
 

sp
re

ad
 th

ro
ug

h 
th

e 
en

tir
e 

co
nt

in
en

t, 
po

ss
ib

ly
 r

ea
ch

in
g 

al
on

g 
th

e 
co

as
ts

 o
f s

ou
th

er
n 

So
ut

h 
A

m
er

ic
a 

by
 1

8,
00

0 
YA

. 

Ex
te

nt
 o

f i
ce

 s
he

et
 

15
,0

00
–1

2,
50

0 
YA

Ex
te

nt
 o

f i
ce

 s
he

et
 

24
,0

00
 Y

A
La

nd
 e

xp
os

ed
 b

y 
lo

w
er

 s
ea

 le
ve

l a
t 

he
ig

ht
 o

f I
ce

 A
ge

K
E

Y

30
,0

00
 Y

A
25

,0
00

20
,0

00
15

,0
00

10
,0

00
5,

00
0

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020-021_Peopling_of_the_Americas.indd   21 05/06/18   4:44 PM



P R E H I S TO RY  7  M YA – 3 0 0 0  b c e22

THE FIRST FARMERS
Working the land to grow food was an entirely new way of life for prehistoric humans. It 
turned them from nomads into farmers – and created settlements with permanent buildings, 
larger societies, and the potential to develop more elaborate technology and culture.

The earliest humans mostly lived in small nomadic bands 
and went wherever food was plentiful. They tracked the 
migrations of large animals as they hunted for meat, just  
as they followed the seasonal bounties of fruit and seeds. 
They built – and rebuilt – simple camps, carrying a few 
lightweight belongings with them. 

This hunter-gatherer existence supported humans 
through the last ice age, but, about 12,000 years ago, a rise 
in Earth’s temperature opened up a world of alternative 
possibilities. One species of human – Homo sapiens – 
successfully emerged into this warmer world. By this time, 
these modern humans had spread far beyond their African 
ancestral home into Asia, Australasia, and America. And 
independently, all over the world, they had begun creating 
permanent farming settlements.

Settling down
Permanent camps with stronger houses made sense in 
places where the land was especially fertile – such as on 
floodplains of rivers. Settlers could support more hungry 
mouths by hunting, fishing, 
and gathering plant food 
around a local foraging 
ground that was rich in 
resources. This was just a 
small step from farming as  

it was more convenient to nurture or transplant food plants 
closer to home, or plant their seeds and tubers (some recent 
evidence suggests people had started to do this as early as 
23,000 years ago) – while the most amenable wild animals 
were confined to pens. These first farms produced more 
food to feed more people, so settlements could grow bigger 
and even produce a surplus to help with leaner times. 
Valuable food stores – defended from competing camps – 
became another reason to stay in one place. 

Domestication 
By about 10,000 bce, agriculture had emerged in Eurasia, 
New Guinea, and America, with farmers relying on local 
plants and animals as favoured sources of food. They 
learned that some species were more useful than others, 
and so these became staple parts of their diets. 

In the fertile floodplains of Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), 
local wild wheat and barley became the cereals of choice, 
while goats and sheep provided meat. East Asia’s main 
cereal was rice, and in Central America, farmers cultivated 

maize. In all cases, the first 
farmers selected the most 
manageable and high-
yielding plants and animals. 
Over time and generations, 
their choices would change 
the traits of wild species, as 
crops and livestock passed 
on their characteristics to 
form the domesticated 
varieties we use today. With 

▷ Early farming villages
This settlement at Mehrgarh in modern 
Pakistan dates from 7000 bce. It had 
mud-brick houses and granaries to 
store surplus cultivated cereal.

△ Innovative tools
Wooden tools called adzes had blades 
made from stone that were sufficiently 
strong to fell trees, open up land for 
pasture, or dig hard ground.

11,000 bce 9000 bce10,000 bce 8000 bce

CROPS

ANIMALS

10,000 bce Lentils, peas, and chickpeas  
in Middle East provide an additional source 
of protein – improving the dietary balance 
along the Fertile Crescent

10,000–5000 bce Maize domesticated in 
Central America becomes the staple cereal in 
the Americas, while squash plants are selectively 
bred to reduce bitterness of their taste

10,000 bce In southwest Asia, local 
animals – including sheep, goats, pigs,  

and cattle – are domesticated and will 
become globally important livestock

SETTLED LIVING
As modern humans dispersed 
around the world, they relied  
on local plants and animals for 
sustenance. Nomadic societies 
gave way to settled communities 
as people planted the first crops  
or corralled the first livestock. 
Domestication of wild species 
began from about 12,000 years 
ago. The first farmers used the 
most edible species that were 
easiest to harvest, growing their 
food in abundance, providing 
enough to support larger 
populations, and ultimately 
out-competing hunter-gatherers.

11,000–9000 bce Wheat and barley  
are grown in southwest Asia to produce 
non-shattering seed heads that are easier 
to harvest – the first domesticated cereals

022-023_The_first_farmers.indd   22 06/06/18   6:07 PM



T H E  F I R S T  FA R M E R S 23

domestication, 
settlements became 
increasingly reliant on the limited 
kinds of plants and animals that provided the 
bulk of their food. As a result, although food was plentiful 
it sometimes lacked dietary balance. More time was needed 
to work the land, and livestock could be lost during droughts. 
People’s health was often poor, as crowded settlements 
encouraged the spread of infectious disease among humans 
as well as their livestock. 

Ultimately, agriculture’s success, or otherwise, was a 
trade-off between these risks and benefits. In some parts  
of the world – such as the Australian interior – conditions 

favoured 
more traditional 
nomadic lifestyles, and 
here humans largely remained 
hunter-gatherers. As farmers gained a better understanding 
of the needs of their crops and livestock, they developed 
ways of overcoming risks and increasing productivity. They 
learned how to use animal dung as fertilizer or to irrigate 
the land by diverting rivers – curtailing effects of seasonal 
drought. In Egypt, for example, the waters of the Nile were 
used for large-scale irrigation of farmland, helping to 
lengthen growing seasons. 

Over time, food productivity became material wealth: 
more food not only fed more people but facilitated trade, too. 
At the same time, larger settlements could support people 
with different skills, such as craftsmen and merchants.  
It meant that the agricultural revolution would have far-
reaching consequences for the history of humankind – 
including the emergence of industrial towns and cities.

◁ Working the land
A wooden model, from 2000 bce, of  
a man ploughing the land with oxen, 
depicts the earliest kind of scratch 
plough, which cut a furrow through 
hard ground ready for sowing seeds.  

△ Feral ancestor
The Armenian mouflon from south-
western Asia is the possible ancestor  
of the domesticated sheep, which was 
one of the earliest animal species to  
be tamed, at around 10,000 bce. 

5000 bce6000 bce 3000 bce4000 bce 2000 bce

7000 bce Rice plants grown in  
the fertile Yangtze River valley  
in China are bred to provide  
larger, more nutritious grains

5000 bce Potato plants are grown  
in Peru and northern Argentina –  

the ancestors of potatoes used  
as a staple today

4000 bce Pearl millet is grown  
in the Sahel regions and – along 

with sorghum – becomes one  
of the staple cereals of Africa

7000 bce Cattle domesticated 
in northern Africa, pre-dating  
the emergence of most crops  
on the African continent

5500 bce 
Horses are 

domesticated in 
central Asia

5000 bce Llama, alpaca, and guinea 
pig are domesticated in South 
America; llamas are used for meat, 
wool, and as beasts of burden

3000 bce Dromedary camels  
are domesticated in Africa and 

Arabia – and used for transport  
or for their meat and milk

2000 bce Turkeys are 
domesticated in Mexico and used 

for meat and their feathers, and 
later have ceremonial significance

“Farming was the precondition for the 
development of … civilizations in Egypt, 
Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, China, 
the Americas, and Africa.”
G R A E M E  B A R K E R ,  B R I T I S H  A RC H A E O LO G I S T,  F RO M 

A G R I C U LT U R A L  R E V O L U T I O N  I N  P R E H I S T O RY ,  2 0 0 6

4000 bce Chickens are used as food and for  
cock-fighting in southern Asia, although genetic  
evidence suggests a much earlier origin as a  
domesticated bird, possibly before 10000 bce

022-023_The_first_farmers.indd   23 06/06/18   6:07 PM



P R E H I S TO RY  7  M YA – 3 0 0 0  b c e24

Evidence for agriculture’s origins comes from archaeology and 
from DNA of crops or livestock, and their wild counterparts. 
No-one knows exactly why people started to work the land. 
Perhaps they transplanted wild crops closer to home for 
convenience, or saw the potential of germinating seeds.  
Whatever happened, as climates warmed in the wake of the Ice 
Age and populations swelled, people around the world – entirely 
independently – became tied to farming. It brought a stable source 
of nourishment and sometimes, when yields were good, a surplus 
to sustain people through leaner times. Tending crops or 
corralling livestock demanded that communities stayed in one 
place long enough to reap the harvest. Other reasons for staying 
in one location would have been that the new farming tools were 
too heavy to carry from place to place and any food surplus had to 
be stored. While agrarian settlements grew to become the seeds 
of civilization, their communities spread, taking their skills, 
plants, and livestock with them.

ORIGINS OF 
AGRICULTURE
When hunter-gatherers abandoned their nomadic life 
and became the first farmers, they were doing more 
than feeding their families. They were kick-starting an 
agricultural revolution that would have enormous 
implications for the future of humanity.

DIFFERENT KINDS OF CROPS AND 
LIVESTOCK: AMERICA    10,000–2000 bce

Across the Old World, similar kinds of crops and 
livestock were being used in separate centres of 
agriculture. But the early colonizers of the 
Americas found entirely new plants, such as 
squashes and maize. The variety of these plants 
increased as people from different regions 
exchanged their produce. The only large animals 
suitable for domestication in the Americas, llamas 
and alpacas, were both found in the Andes.

5

Archaeological site

Maize and millet

Peanut

Squash and sunflower 

Squash and avocado

Potato
 
Turkey 
 
Llama and alpaca

DOMESTICATION REVOLUTION
WILD SPECIES TO CROPS AND LIVESTOCK

Produce of artificial selection
Bigger cobs of domesticated maize (left) 

are descended from wild maize (right).

The crops and livestock that 
humankind uses today descended from 
wild species that had rather different 
characteristics. Farmers chose to 
breed from individuals that served 
them best, such as by selecting ones 
that provided better yields or were 
more easily managed. This so-called 
artificial selection, applied over many 
generations and sometimes across 
centuries, gave rise to domesticated 
forms of plants and animals.

“… Almost all of us are farmers or else  
are fed by farmers”

J A R E D  D I A M O N D ,  F R O M  G U N S ,  G E R M S ,  A N D  S T E E L ,  19 9 7

ADVENT OF AGRICULTURE
Agriculture arose independently in different parts of the world, before diffusing into 
adjacent regions. Each area developed its own specific crops, dependent on the 
region’s climate, and some produce went on to become globally important as 
communities expanded across the world.

Main independent 
centres of 
domestication 
 
Secondary  
centres

Cereals

Pulses

Fruits and  
vegetables

KEY

12,000 bce 10,000 8000 6000 4000 2000

1
2
3
4
5

TIMELINE

9000 bce Rapid 
domestication  

of maize

5000 bce 
Evidence of squash 
domestication 

6000 bce Earliest 
domestication of 

llamas by Incas

2000 bce Earliest 
domestication of 

turkeys by Mayans

△ Hungarian statuette
Agriculture’s significance to community 
life was frequently expressed in art, 
such as this 5th-millennium sickle-
clasping idol, from central Europe.

Modern 
maize cob

Teosinte (original 
wild plant)

2000 bce Maize 
cultivation spreads 
from Mesoamerica 
to North America

Globally important 
produce
 
Mainly regional 
produce

Livestock

Tubers and 
roots

SIZE KEY

S O U T H
A M E R I C A

E U
R O P E

A F R I C A

N O R T H
A M E R I C A

A S I A

A U S T R A L I A

Mississippi Valley

Mesoamerica
West African

Sahel

Yellow and Yangtze
River Valleys

New Guinea 
Highlands

Sahel and Upper Nile Valley

Fe
rti

le

Crescent

Ganges River

Valley

A
n

d
e

s

Lake
Balkhash

024-025_Origins_of_agriculture.indd   24 06/06/2018   17:14



O R I G I N S  O F  AG R I C U LT U R E 25

EARLIEST EVIDENCE OF AGRICULTURE: 
MESOPOTAMIA    12,000–4000 bce

It is no coincidence that some of the earliest  
crops were grown on the nutrient-rich floodplain 
between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers of 
modern-day Iraq. Here in ancient Mesopotamia 
(meaning “between rivers”), wheat was 
domesticated around 11,000 bce. This region  
was part of a so-called “Fertile Crescent” that 
stretched westwards as far as the Levant and 
became key to the global agricultural revolution.

3

Archaeological site

Wheat and barley
 
Lentil, pea,  
and chickpea

Olive
 
Sheep, goat,  
pig, and cattle

Archaeological site

Sorghum and millet

Oil palm and  
date palm

Cattle, donkey,  
and camel

LIVESTOCK BEFORE CROPS: AFRICA    
9000–2000 bce

In some parts of the world, animals were 
domesticated before crops. In Africa, cattle  
were being used as early as 9000 bce, but local 
cereals, such as millet and sorghum, were not 
domesticated until thousands of years after that. 
Agriculture began in the Sahara; due to increased 
rainfall after the Ice Age, the area was then 
covered by grasslands, lakes, and marshes. As  
the region dried, agriculture spread southwards. 

4

Archaeological site

Millet and rice 

Rice 

Soybean 

Mungbean

Melon

Pig, horse, chicken, duck 
 
Cattle

DOMESTICATION OF CROPS IN ASIA: CHINA    
11,000–3000 bce

Rice became the staple cereal crop in river valleys in 
China. Farmers chose the best glutinous rice grains to 
grow more plants, so rice grains got bigger. This 
human-driven change had already transformed wild 
wheat in Mesopotamia, where harvesting by sickles 
had, by chance, favoured non-shattering seed heads. 
But selection of rice grains in Asia probably happened 
through more conscious effort.

1

Archaeological site

Banana

Taro and yam

AGRICULTURE IN THE WET TROPICS:  
NEW GUINEA    10,000–4000 bce

Covered with rainforest, the tropical island of 
New Guinea offered a completely different mix  
of food plants. Instead of cereals, people grew 
fruit and root crops – notably banana and taro,  
the latter of which has both edible roots and 
leaves and is still a local food staple. But farming 
here was only part of the local economy; the 
region remains today the only primary centre of 
agriculture that has not contributed domesticated 
species to the rest of the world.

2

10,500 bce Modern 
cattle domesticated 
from a small founding 
herd containing 
possibly as few  
as 80 animals

3500–3000 bce 
Archaeological 

evidence of 
sorghum 

domestication

7000 bce 
Possible early 
cultivation of rice 
in southern Asia

Before 10,000 bce  
Wild junglefowl, ancestor 
of modern-day chickens, 
are domesticated

8000 bce Origin of all 
domesticated Asian rice

10,000 bce Archaeological 
evidence of millet, the 
earliest known dry farming 
crop in Asia

5500 bce Earliest evidence 
of horse domestication, 
including use of harnesses

7000 bce 
Archaeological 
evidence of banana 
and taro cultivation 

3100 bce First major irrigation project 
under Egypt’s First Dynasty diverts 

floodwater of the Nile

7000 bce Arrival of 
agriculture in Europe, 
with food-producing  

economy adopted  
in Greece

10,200 bce Earliest evidence 
of pig domestication

10,000 bce Earliest 
evidence of sheep and 
goat domestication

11,000 bce Earliest 
evidence of plant 

domestication in the 
form of emmer and 

einkorn wheats 

1 MYA Evidence of first 
controlled use of fire by 

humans, at Wonderwerk 
Cave; possibly  

earliest barbeque

5000 bce Likely origin of 
domesticated oil palm

4500 bce Evidence  
of pearl millet 

domestication;  
the earliest known 

cultivated crop  
in Africa 

5000 bce Earliest 
known domestication 

of cattle in Africa 

S O U T H
A M E R I C A

E U
R O P E

A F R I C A

N O R T H
A M E R I C A

A S I A

A U S T R A L I A

Mississippi Valley

Mesoamerica
West African

Sahel

Yellow and Yangtze
River Valleys

New Guinea 
Highlands

Sahel and Upper Nile Valley

Fe
rti

le

Crescent

Ganges River

Valley

A
n

d
e

s

Lake
Balkhash

024-025_Origins_of_agriculture.indd   25 06/06/2018   17:14



P R E H I S TO RY  7  M YA – 3 0 0 0  b c e26

B
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rm

ia

Nile Delta

M e
d i t

e r r
a n

e a
n  S

e a

T a u
r u

s   
M o

u n
t a

i n
s  

Z
a

g r o s   M
o

u
n

t a
i n

s   

I r a n i a n   P l a t e a u

A
r a

b
i a

n
  P

e
n

i n

s
u

l a

L
e

v
a

n
t

CYPRUS

S i n a i

M
e s o p

o t a m
i a

A n a t o l i a

SYR I A

S y r
i a n   D e s e r t

EG Y P T

Eridu

Jarmo

Beidha

Khirokitia

Byblos

Çatal Höyük

Jericho

Ain Ghazal

Nippur

Hacilar

Canhasan

Ugarit

Mureybat

Tell es Sawwan
Baghouz

Tepe Gawra
Tell Halaf

Tell el ’Ubaid

Tepe Sabz

Choga Mami

Tepe Guran

Ali Kosh

Tepe Giyan

Uruk

Gobekli Tepe

Tell Arpachiyah

Tell Abu
Hureyra

Tell
Zeidan

Tell Hassuna

Tell Brak

Just as agriculture turned humans into a more sedentary species,  
so the settlements they made drove the attributes of modern human 
society: material accumulation, industry, and trade. This happened 
in places around the world, but nowhere is the evidence for it clearer 
than in southwest Asia. Here the first farmers produced enough  
food on fertile soils to support denser populations. Although life  
was labour-intensive, and there was a greater risk of disease from 
overcrowding and malnutrition, there were benefits of living 
together in one place over a long period. People could concentrate on 
producing a surplus and perfect skills to make their lives easier. Clay 
was baked into bricks for making stronger houses or fashioned into 
large storage vessels. As towns grew they were sometimes fortified 
with surrounding walls. Shells from the Mediterranean showed 
wide trade links developing, while copper gradually supplanted flint 
for better tools. As society itself divided into craftspeople, merchants, 
and their leaders, these first local industries brought material wealth 
that formed the basis of the first exchange economies.

VILLAGES  
TO TOWNS 
As nomadic hunter-gatherers began farming, for  
the first time in history human populations became 
anchored to fixed points on a map of civilization. 
Settlements grew in size and complexity; the first 
villages became the first towns.

POTTERY IN THE STONE AGE
HARNESSING THE POTENTIAL OF CLAY

Halaf vase
Mesopotamian pottery was 

decorated with geometric 
designs as early as 6000 bce.

Fired clay had been used to 
make figurines and pots before 
20,000 YA. It later became 
important in constructing 
dwellings. Wet clay was used 
to reinforce brushwood walls. 
Solid bricks gave protection 
from the elements and 
enemies, while creative clay 
technology was used to 
fashion more decorative pots.

“… it made sense for men to band together… 
for… management of the environment.”

J M  R O B E R T S ,  F R O M  H I S T O RY  O F  T H E  W O R L D ,  19 9 0

From 10,000 bce  
Camping ground for Natufian  

hunter-gatherers grows into  
one of the world’s oldest cities

7400–5200 bce Early 
proto-urban settlement 

develops new burial 
traditions beneath houses

10,300–9550 bce Settlement 
consisting of farms supporting 
thousands of people produces 

lime-plaster statues representing 
the human form

7200 –6500 bce People 
cultivate cereals, and herd 

goats, while hunting 
animals and gathering nuts

15,000 bce 10,000 bce 5000 bce 1 ce

EMERGENCE OF SETTLEMENTS
The chronology of settlement in southwest Asia followed an arc from  
the earliest camps in the west to the foundations of would-be cities  
in the east. Within 8,000 years – right across the region – agrarian 
villages were becoming industrial towns.

2
3
4

1

TIMELINE

4900 bce Sophisticated  
use of copper, including 

mace-heads and jewellery 

6000 bce After a period of 
abandonment, village is 
reoccupied by a culture 
with advanced pottery

9000 bce A town with 
two-storey, round, stone houses

From 8000 bce One of the 
oldest continuously inhabited 

towns in the world

6000 bce Small fortified town 
with a surrounding wall

026-027_Villages_to_towns.indd   26 06/06/18   4:04 PM



V I L L AG E S  TO  TOW N S 27

B
l a c k  S e a

C a s p i a n  S e a

P
e

r
s

i a

n
    G

u l f  

Jo
rd

an
  

                        E
uphra t e s  

N
ile 

T ig r is  

Lak
e V

an

Lake U
rm

ia

Nile Delta

M e
d i t

e r r
a n

e a
n  S

e a

T a u
r u

s   
M o

u n
t a

i n
s  

Z
a

g r o s   M
o

u
n

t a
i n

s   

I r a n i a n   P l a t e a u

A
r a

b
i a

n
  P

e
n

i n

s
u

l a

L
e

v
a

n
t

CYPRUS

S i n a i

M
e s o p

o t a m
i a

A n a t o l i a

SYR I A

S y r
i a n   D e s e r t

EG Y P T

Eridu

Jarmo

Beidha

Khirokitia

Byblos

Çatal Höyük

Jericho

Ain Ghazal

Nippur

Hacilar

Canhasan

Ugarit

Mureybat

Tell es Sawwan
Baghouz

Tepe Gawra
Tell Halaf

Tell el ’Ubaid

Tepe Sabz

Choga Mami

Tepe Guran

Ali Kosh

Tepe Giyan

Uruk

Gobekli Tepe

Tell Arpachiyah

Tell Abu
Hureyra

Tell
Zeidan

Tell Hassuna

Tell Brak

◁ Ain Ghazal statue
Bigger settlements nurtured more 
complex belief systems. Lime-
plaster human figures, buried 
beneath floors, are possible 
evidence of early ancestor worship.

From 10,200 bce Small village of 
Natufian culture hunter-gatherers

TRANSITION FROM NOMADS TO 
SETTLEMENTS    12,500–9000 bce

The Natufian people, descended from nomads of 
the Levant and Sinai, made the earliest settlements 
in southwest Asia, from about 12,500 bce. At  
first these were probably nothing more than 
seasonal hunting camps, although evidence for 
these is scant because nomads had few material 
possessions. Their descendants stockpiled food 
that demanded permanent storage.

1

Spread of settlements

Archaeological site

FIRST AGRARIAN SETTLEMENTS  
11,000–6000 bce

Farmers emerged from early settlers who 
exploited wild cereals, such as rye, which was 
cultivated as early as 11,050 bce. At first, settlers 
rallied together to protect wild food plants from 
grazing animals, but, over time, plants were 
moved or seeds sown closer to home. Houses 
became more permanent, as mud brick replaced 
perishable brushwood as building material.

2

Spread of settlements

Archaeological site

SPREAD OF MATERIAL CULTURE     
7000–4000 bce

More food supported bigger settlements, as 
villages proliferated over a wider region, from 
Anatolia in the west to the Zagros Mountains in 
the east. Çatal HÖyÜk, a rich archaeological site, 
might have supported up to 10,000 people. 
Although it lacked social hierarchy, it had a thriving 
industry in pottery and obsidian tools, and may 
have traded for seashells and flints from Syria.

3

Spread of settlements

Archaeological site

GROWTH OF URBAN LIFE    6000–3000 bce

The Ubaid people were the first to colonize 
southeastern Mesopotamia as the Stone Age  
gave way to the Copper Age. They used copper  
to make tools, were led by hereditary chieftains, 
and may even have had a primitive democracy. 
Ubaid settlements merged to form bigger 
communities – notably Uruk, which would 
become one of the first true cities and a hub  
of major trade networks.

4

Spread of settlements

Archaeological site

From 9500 bce Settlement is 
reoccupied after a period of 
abandonment and thrives as a village 
that domesticates cereals and sheep

9130–7370 bce Oldest 
known temple, built by 
people who probably 
guarded plant resources  
but had not started farming

6100–5400 bce Town that gives 
its name to the Halaf Culture, 
known for pottery with geometric 
or animal designs

6500–2600 bce Becomes 
gateway to Tigris Valley  
and develops into one of  
the first cities

6000 bce Appears as 
specialized artisan village, 
producing fine pottery

6000 bce Trade hub,  
which also improves its own 
agriculture through irrigation

7090–4950 bce Settlement 
engages in organized trade 
of obsidian and shells with 
distant places

From 5400 bce Develops into 
one of the biggest settlements 
of the Ubaid culture; possibly 
the world’s first city

2900 bce City becomes 
the largest in the world  

at the time

From 11,500 bce 
Founded by people 
of Natufian culture

5500–4000 bce 
Becomes western 
outpost of Ubaid culture

5200–3500 bce 
Settlement that gives 
its name to the Ubaid 
culture develops use 
of copper-based 
technology

5000–1500 bce Town 
includes one of the earliest 
known temples featuring 
pilasters and recesses

6000 bce Town 
occupied by Samarra 
culture, known for 
finely-made pottery

5000 bce Settlement 
uses stone and flint 
tools and irrigation  

from the Tigris

5000 bce An important 
religious centre

6000 bce Village with agriculture

6000 bce First known 
use of canal irrigation

7500 bce Settlement with domestication 
of animals, such as goats

6400–6200 bce Small village based 
on dry-farming, herding, and hunting

6000–1500 bce 
Settlement produces 
monochromatic pottery

026-027_Villages_to_towns.indd   27 05/06/18   5:12 PM



028-029_Chapter2_Opener.indd   28 06/06/2018   15:03



THE 
ANCIENT 

WORLD
ANCIENT HISTORY STRETCHES FROM WHEN THE FIRST CITIES 

DEVELOPED AROUND 3000 BCE TO THE FALL OF POWERS SUCH AS 
THE ROMAN EMPIRE AND HAN CHINA IN THE FIRST CENTURIES CE.

028-029_Chapter2_Opener.indd   29 06/06/2018   15:03



30 T H E  A N C I E N T  WO R L D  3 0 0 0  b c e – 5 0 0  c e

3500 bce The 
wheel is invented

c. 3000 bce First signs 
of urbanization appear

c. 2600 bce The cities  
of Mohenjo Daro and 
Harappa are founded

3500 bce 3250 bce 3000 bce 2750 bce

INDUS VALLEY

CHINA

MINOANS

EGYPT

MESOPOTAMIA

THE FIRST CIVILIZATIONS
Fertile soil, warm climate, and an ample supply of water, along with agriculture and a stone-

working technology, allowed the first urban civilizations to develop. The earliest is thought to 
have flourished in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) around 3500 bce.  

△ Ram in the thicket
A fine example of Sumerian 
craftsmanship, this elaborately worked 
statuette of a wild goat searching for 
food comes from the city-state of Ur  
in ancient Mesopotamia.

△ Architectural wonder
Giza’s pyramids were the tombs of three Old Kingdom pharaohs. 
From left to right, the three large pyramids seen here are the  
tombs of Menkaure, Khafre, and Khufu. 

3500–3000 bce  
City-states such as  
Uruk and Ur develop

3100 bce The earliest 
form of cuneiform  

script is used

3100 bce King Narmer unites 
Upper and Lower Egypt; the 
hieroglyphic script develops

Of all the factors that helped civilizations grow, water was 
perhaps the most important. The earliest known civilization 
was born in Sumer, in southern Mesopotamia, in the fertile 
region between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The 
Sumerians were drawn to the area they settled in because  
of the abundance of fresh water the rivers provided. 

A thriving trading centre of the Sumerian civilization, 
Uruk is generally considered to be the world’s first city.  
It boasted 6 miles of defensive walls and a population  
that numbered between 40,000 and 80,000 at the height  
of its glory in 2800 bce. Other Sumerian city-states that 
contributed significantly to the civilization included Eridu, 
Ur, Nippur, Lagash, and Kish. Probably the most important 
Sumerian invention was the wheel, followed by the 
development of cuneiform writing.

The first pyramids
Just as the Sumerians depended on the rivers Tigris  
and Euphrates, the Egyptian civilization could not have  
come into existence without the Nile. The water from  
the Nile flooded the plains for 6 months annually, leaving 
behind a nutrient-rich layer of thick, black silt. This meant 
that the early Egyptians could cultivate crops, including 
grains, and fruit and vegetables. 

In around 3400 bce, two Egyptian kingdoms flourished – 
Upper Egypt in the Nile valley and Lower Egypt to the 
north. Some 300 years later, King Narmer unified  
the two kingdoms, establishing Memphis as the capital  
of united Egypt. It was near Memphis, at Saqqara, that  
the Egyptians built their first pyramid in around 2611 bce.  
The step pyramid was designed by Imhotep – one of  
King Djoser’s most trusted advisors – as a tomb to house 
the corpse of his royal master. More than 130 pyramids 
followed. The most significant of these was the Great 
Pyramid, constructed at Giza for Khufu, who reigned from 
2589 to 2566 bce. Two more pyramids were erected on the 
same site for the pharaohs Khafre and Menkaure, Khufu’s 
successors. Although completely unrelated, pyramid-shaped 

“This is the wall of Uruk, which no city  
on Earth can equal.”

E P I C  O F  G I L G A M E S H ,  C .  2 0 0 0  bce

ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS
City-based civilization is thought 
to have originated in Mesopotamia 
(the area between the rivers 
Euphrates and Tigris), followed  
by Egypt’s Nile Valley. Civilizations 
grew independently in the fertile 
basins of the Yellow River in China 
and the Indus Valley in today’s 
Pakistan and India. In each case, a 
great river created the conditions 
for intensive, efficient agriculture. 
Early cities also grew in Peru, for 
reasons not yet fully understood. 
In Europe, the Minoans built highly 
developed urban settlements 
centered on grand palaces.

030-031_The_first_civilizations.indd   30 06/06/18   5:52 PM



31T H E  F I R S T  C I V I L I Z AT I O N S

c. 2500 bce 
Earliest use of the 
Indus script is seen

1500 bce The  Aryans 
infiltrate the Indus 
Valley from the north

1200 bce Chinese 
writing is used for 

the first time

1900 bce Construction  
of the temple of Karnak,  

at Thebes in Egypt, begins

2500 bce 2250 bce 2000 bce 1750 bce 1500 bce 1250 bce

▷ Ritual vessel
This Chinese bronze food bowl, or gui, was probably 
made between 1300 and 1050 bce. It was used in Shang 
religious rituals.

2350 bce King Sargon 
of Akkad unites 

Sumerian cities to create 
the world’s first empire

1700 bce The Hyksos take 
control of the Nile delta, 

ending Egypt’s Middle Kingdom

1800 bce Climate 
change begins to 
affect the Indus 
Valley civilization

1600 bce The Battle 
of Mingtiao takes 
place, and the Shang 
dynasty is established

c. 1646 bce A massive 
volcanic explosion 
occurs at Thera

▽ Artistic expression
This colourful fresco, depicting  
a Minoan funeral ritual honouring  
a dead nobleman, decorates a 
sarcophagus dating from the  
14th century bce.

structures were also constructed in what is now Peru by  
the Norte Chico civilization, builders of the first cities in 
Americas, at some time before 3000 bce.

Civilizations of the east
Rivers played an equally important part in the development  
of civilizations in the Indus Valley (in the northwestern part  
of south Asia) and northern China. The Indus Valley people 
are known today as Harappans after Harappa – one of their 
greatest cities, along with Mohenjo Daro. The Harappans 
prospered from 3300 to 1900 bce. Until recently, the 
Harappans were thought to have been overrun 
by Aryan invaders from the north, but a more 
modern theory suggests that tectonic shifts that 
affected the rivers on which they relied were the 
cause of the Indus Valley collapse. Yet another 
theory suggests that the drying up of local 
rivers led to the culture’s decline.

A Chinese civilization flourished along the 
Huang He, or Yellow River, in the north. As 
with the Egyptian and Harappan civilizations, 
here, too, seasonal floods enriched the soil. 
This encouraged the development of farming, 
while the river itself provided a useful trade 
route. By 2000 bce, bronze-working, silk-
weaving, and pottery were being practised.

The mysterious Minoans
Around the same time that the Chinese 
civilization was developing, another 
influential civilization was emerging on the 

Mediterranean island of Crete. Its people are known as the 
Minoans, so named by the British archaeologist Sir Arthur 
Evans to honour Minos, a legendary ruler who may or  
may not have existed. The Minoans were a great maritime 
trading power, exporting timber, pottery, and textiles. Trade 
brought wealth, and they built many palaces – Knossos 
being the most impressive. The Minoan civilization declined 
in the late 15th century bce. Some historians attribute this  
to a volcanic explosion on the island of Thera (modern-day 
Santorini), while others argue that it was the result of an 
invasion by the Mycenaeans from mainland Greece. 

2000–1450 bce The 
Minoan civilization 

spreads from Crete 
through the Aegean

2000 bce Bronze casting 
is practised by the Erlitou 

culture on the Yellow River

030-031_The_first_civilizations.indd   31 06/06/18   5:52 PM



T H E  A N C I E N T  WO R L D  3 0 0 0  b c e – 5 0 0  c e32

H i m a l a y a s

C a u c a s u s   

S a h a r a

A n a t o l i a

S y r i a n
D e s e r t

I r a n i a n
P l a t e a u

Z
a

g

r o s    M
o u n t a i n s   

H i
n d u

   K
u s h  

 R a n g e

S i n a i

T h a r
D e s e r t

I n
d

u
s  

 V
a

l l
e

y

A r a w a l l i
H i l l s

R a n n
o f

K u t c h

B l a c k  S e a

R
e

d
 S

e
a

  

P
e

r s i a n  G u l f   

C
a

s
p

i
a

n
 S

e
a

   

M
e d i t e r r a n e a n  S e a  

A
r

a
b

i a
n

 
S

e
a

 

A S I
A

A F R I C A

A r a b i a n  
P e n i n s u l a

Lake
Urmia

Lake Van

N
ile 

Euphrate s  

Araks 

Amu Darya  

Das
ht 

In
du

s 

Ki

zil
 Irm

ak  

Tigris 
C r e t e

Cyprus

N U B I A

GREECE

E G Y P T

L
E

V
A

N
T

MESOPOTAMIA 

I N D I A

Ebla

Hafit

Ajman

Tall-i Qaleh

Memphis
Saqqara

Heliopolis

Abydos

Hierakonpolis
Edfu

Elephantine

Tarsus

Kültepe

Habuba
Kabira

Tell Brak Hasanlu
Marlik

Umma

Failaka

Lagash
Mohenjo-Daro

Tarut

Rojadi
Dilmun

Eshnunna
Khafajah

Kish
Shuruppak

Sippar

Uruk

Tepe Hissar

Kermanshah

Tepe Yahya

Naqada
El Kab

Byblos

Nineveh

Ashur

Nuzi

Mari

Godin
Tepe

Hamadan

Ur
Eridu

Tell Ajrab

Nippur
Adab

Girsu

Susa

Kalleh Nisar

Tepe Giyan Sialk

Anshan

Shahdad

Bampur

Shahr-i Sokhta

Shah Tepe

Tell as-Suleimeh 
(Awal)

Lothal

Hili

Chanhu-Daro

Kalibangan

Harappa

Dholavira

Ganweriwala
Mundigak

Shortughai

Umm an Nar

Old royal tombs

PRE-DYNASTIC EGYPT    4000 bce–3050  bce

From 4000  bce, Egyptian cities such as Heliopolis, 
Memphis, and Abydos grew into key trading centres, 
importing metals and building stones from Nubia. 
They also traded with Mesopotamian cities, acquiring 
valuable materials such as lapis lazuli, which has its 
origin in the Indus Valley. By 3500  bce, Nekhen (later 
named Hierakonpolis) was already a large city with 
Egypt’s oldest known temples, housing royal tombs.

1

TRADE AND THE FIRST CITIES
The first cities emerged from 4000 bce 
along river valleys where high agricultural 
productivity was possible. Archaeological 
findings reveal the extent to which these 
cities traded with one another. 

Egypt

Mesopotamia

Indus Valley

Trading area

KEY

4000 bce 3000 2000 1000

1
2
3
4
5

TIMELINE

Trading city

Trade route

Archaeological 
site of traded 
goods

c. 3000 bce Eshnunna 
holds a strategic 

position, controlling 
trade between 

Mesopotamia and the 
northeastern region

c. 2700 bce Uruk’s 
population reaches  

about 50,000 

c. 2040 bce Ziggurat of Ur is 
built by King Ur-Nammu 

(r. 2047–2030 bce)

c. 2000 bce Egyptian 
cities trade with Nubia, 
importing luxury goods 
such as gold, copper, 
ebony, and incense

c. 3100 bce 
Hierakonpolis is the 

most likely capital after 
Lower and Upper Egypt 

are unified under  
King Narmer

c.  3000 bce Trade routes 
are established across 

the Iranian Plateau  
linking Mesopotamia
with the Indus Valley

TRADE IN MESOPOTAMIA    4000–2500  bce

By 4000  bce, many city-states had emerged in 
Mesopotamia. Cities such as Kish, Uruk, and Ur traded 
local goods to the Mediterranean and also formed 
trade links with the Indus region – a source of luxury 
goods such as carnelian beads and lapis lazuli. Religion 
played a key societal role. Temples redistributed 
surplus food and craft products – offered in the name 
of gods – as rations, or traded them for raw materials.  

2

Major temples

△ King Sargon
Unearthed from the ancient ruins of 
Nineveh, this bronze head sculpture is 
thought to be of King Sargon of Akkad.

032-033_The_first_cities.indd   32 06/06/2018   16:23



T H E  F I R S T  C I T I E S 33

H i m a l a y a s

C a u c a s u s   

S a h a r a

A n a t o l i a

S y r i a n
D e s e r t

I r a n i a n
P l a t e a u

Z
a

g

r o s    M
o u n t a i n s   

H i
n d u

   K
u s h  

 R a n g e

S i n a i

T h a r
D e s e r t

I n
d

u
s  

 V
a

l l
e

y

A r a w a l l i
H i l l s

R a n n
o f

K u t c h

B l a c k  S e a

R
e

d
 S

e
a

  

P
e

r s i a n  G u l f   

C
a

s
p

i
a

n
 S

e
a

   

M
e d i t e r r a n e a n  S e a  

A
r

a
b

i a
n

 
S

e
a

 

A S I
A

A F R I C A

A r a b i a n  
P e n i n s u l a

Lake
Urmia

Lake Van

N
ile 

Euphrate s  

Araks 

Amu Darya  

Das
ht 

In
du

s 

Ki

zil
 Irm

ak  

Tigris 

C r e t e

Cyprus

N U B I A

GREECE

E G Y P T

L
E

V
A

N
T

MESOPOTAMIA 

I N D I A

Ebla

Hafit

Ajman

Tall-i Qaleh

Memphis
Saqqara

Heliopolis

Abydos

Hierakonpolis
Edfu

Elephantine

Tarsus

Kültepe

Habuba
Kabira

Tell Brak Hasanlu
Marlik

Umma

Failaka

Lagash
Mohenjo-Daro

Tarut

Rojadi
Dilmun

Eshnunna
Khafajah

Kish
Shuruppak

Sippar

Uruk

Tepe Hissar

Kermanshah

Tepe Yahya

Naqada
El Kab

Byblos

Nineveh

Ashur

Nuzi

Mari

Godin
Tepe

Hamadan

Ur
Eridu

Tell Ajrab

Nippur
Adab

Girsu

Susa

Kalleh Nisar

Tepe Giyan Sialk

Anshan

Shahdad

Bampur

Shahr-i Sokhta

Shah Tepe

Tell as-Suleimeh 
(Awal)

Lothal

Hili

Chanhu-Daro

Kalibangan

Harappa

Dholavira

Ganweriwala
Mundigak

Shortughai

Umm an Nar

Archaeological site of carnelian beads

CARNELIAN TRADE    2350–1800  bce

A precious stone known as carnelian was valued 
second to lapis lazuli both in Mesopotamian and in 
Harappan society. Carnelian was sourced in and 
around the Indus Valley and was mostly crafted  
into beads and amulets. From around 2350 bce, Indus 
Valley merchants who traded in carnelian jewellery 
established links with Mesopotamian cities.

5

c. 2600 bce 
Construction of the 

city of Mohenjo-
Daro reflects 

sophisticated civil 
engineering and 
urban planning

c. 3000 bce Lothal 
bead-makers develop 
advanced methods  
to work with carnelian

c. 2000 bce With its  
lapis lazuli mines, 

Shortughai becomes  
a key trading colony of the 

Indus civilization

“The Mesopotamians viewed their city-states as 
earthly copies of a divine model and order.”
 J .  S P I E LV O G E L ,  F R O M  W E S T E R N  C I V I L I Z AT I O N  V O L .  1 ,  2 014

AKKADIAN EMPIRE   2300–2200 bce

As the Mesopotamian cities continued to flourish, 
powerful leaders sought control over the region. The 
first was Sargon (c. 2296–2240 bce). As a young man, 
Sargon served the king of Kish, but later rebelled and 
overthrew the Sumerian ruler. He renamed the 
city-state Akkad and built it into a military power, 
before conquering the cities of southern Mesopotamia 
and lands to the northwest as far as Byblos. 

3

Sumer Akkadian Empire

CITIES OF THE INDUS    2600–1500  bce

Ruins of cities such as Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro 
show planned street layouts and sophisticated water 
supply and draining systems. These cities produced 
fine metalwork and developed new techniques in 
handicraft. From around 2500  bce, they traded widely, 
despatching their goods with seals carved with 
inscriptions. These branding objects have been found 
throughout Mesopotamia, revealing how widely the 
Indus people traded.

4

Indus inscriptions  Chlorite vessels

By 3000 bce, agricultural advances led to food surpluses in some 
parts of the world, namely the river valleys of the Nile in Egypt, the 
Indus, and the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia, allowing the 
communities living in these regions to branch out into a range of 
craftwork – from metalworking to masonry. This gave rise to the first 
markets, which channelled wealth into these sites, and in doing so

formed the nucleus of the world’s first cities. These urban centres 
mostly grew on the riverbanks, in close proximity to fertile farmland 
and sources of clay for brick-making. The rivers served as vital routes 
for transporting raw material such as timber, precious stones, and 
metals into the cities. Trade goods also moved over land, in particular 
across the Levant and the Iranian Plateau, linking the cities of all 
three regions. Most notably, carnelian beads and seals (branding 
marks on documents accompanying goods) from the Indus valley 
have been found widely in Mesopotamia. Many Mesopotamian 
cities grew into powerful city-states, some of which eventually 
became the capitals of some of the earliest known empires.

THE FIRST  
CITIES
The first known cities developed along fertile river 
plains in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), Egypt, and the 
Indus Valley. They became thriving trading centres with 
an organized social structure, and flourished in the 
fields of art, craft, and architecture.

STANDARD OF UR
MESOPOTAMIAN ARTEFACT, 2600–2400 bce

Excavated from the royal 
tombs of Ur in the 1920s, the 
Standard of Ur is a tapered 
box decorated with scenes. 
The original purpose of the 
artefact remains a mystery, 
but the images on the two side 
panels, dubbed the “War Side” 
and the “Peace Side”, form a 
narrative that offers a vivid 
insight into the different 
aspects of life in the ancient 
city. The scenes also include 
the earliest known image of  
wheels used for transport.

032-033_The_first_cities.indd   33 05/06/18   4:44 PM



T H E  A N C I E N T  WO R L D  3 0 0 0  b c e – 5 0 0  c e34

to Punt

G
u

l f      o
f     S u e z  

R e d  S e a  

Wadi el -’Allaqi 

N
ile 

Nile 

W
adi 

el-Natrun  

Jordan 

Dead
Sea

First
Cataract

Second
Cataract

Third Cataract

Fif th Cataract
Four th

Cataract

Nile
Delta

A r a b i a n
P e n i n s u l a

S i n a i

N u b i a n
D e s e r t

S a h a r a

E
a

s
t e

r
n   D

e
s

e
r

t  

W
e

s
t

e
r

n   

D
e

s
e

r
t

C y p r u s

WAWAT

MEDJA

N UB IA

L O W E R
E G Y P T

U P P E R
E G Y P T

Giza

Faiyum
Hawara

Beni Hasan

Meir

Shechem

Jerusalem

Heracleopolis

Abydos

Armant

Etna

Shaat

Buhen

Hieraconpolis

Bubastis

Mendes

El-Lisht
El-Lahun

Qaw

Asyut

Deir el-Bersha

Ipet-isut (Karnak)
Thebes            

Madu

MersaGebtu
(Qift)

Naqada

Deir el-Bahari

Quseir

Elephantine

Baki (Quban)
Miam (Aniba)

Kerma

Keben
(Byblos)

Megiddo

Tell el-Ajjul

QatnaUgarit

Memphis
Dahshur

Heliopolis

M e
d i t

e r r
a n

e a
n   

S e
a

Kurkur
Dunqul Ikkur

Selima

Bahariya

Dakhla

Kharga

From c. 2700 to 1085 bce, Egypt’s kings, or pharaohs, ruled the  
Nile Valley for three long, separate periods, named by historians 
the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms.  
     Egypt’s ancient civilization grew along the banks of the River 
Nile, which was the main artery for travel and trade. The river was 
also rich in fish and flooded annually, covering the banks with  
fertile mud, making for a highly productive agricultural region. 
While Egypt’s pharaohs ruled over this riverside zone, their 
influence spread much further afield, mainly through land and sea 
trading expeditions, which became more widespread in the Middle 
and New Kingdom eras. The Egyptians developed their own system 
of writing, and the pharaohs bolstered their wealth by employing 
scribes to record goods traded and to ensure tax was collected.  
    The Egyptian people worshipped multiple gods and also 
regarded the pharaohs as deities, which lent spiritual weight to the 
ruling power. The strength of the pharaohs’ authority is evident in 
the impressive burial sites built during the ancient era, including 
the pyramids of the Old Kingdom and the colossal temples and 
tombs of the later kingdoms.

EGYPT OF  
THE PHARAOHS
Egypt was among the most enduring civilizations in the 
ancient world. With its succession of powerful rulers, 
unique religion and art, and trading networks, the 
culture exerted its influence in the Nile Valley and 
beyond for more than 3,000 years.

“The All-Lord himself made me great. He gave 
to me the land while I was in the egg.” 

R A M E S E S  I I ,  P H A R A O H  O F  T H E  N E W  K I N G D O M , 
12 7 9 – 1213  bce

REGION UNDER EGYPTIAN CONTROL
The maps show the boundaries of the Old, Middle, 
and New Kingdoms of Ancient Egypt, and include 
the trade routes that linked the sites of oases, cities, 
the great temples, forts, and pyramids.

Oasis

 KEY

3000 bce 900120015001800210024002700

2
3
4
5

1

TIMELINE

1640 bce Hyksos people 
conquer Lower Egypt with 
horsedrawn chariots

2100 bce Large forts 
are built to assert 
power over Nubia 
after the region  
is conquered

2550 bce 
Pharaonic power 

makes first 
contact with 

oasis settlements 
such as Bahariya

MIDDLE KINGDOM    2040–1786  bce

By 2040 bce the rulers of Thebes had 
grown increasingly powerful and 
become rulers of all of Egypt. Their 
domain was slightly larger than that of 
the Old Kingdom, and their merchants 
travelled further to estab