Across the planet are evidences of the oldest civilization in the world. Let’s explore 7 strong cases.
The further back in time we go, the more intriguing human history becomes. Our origin story is entwined with our progress into civilized society. How our ancestors came to invent and develop writing, language, symbols, and social structures is still a mystery for modern scholars to explore.
Currently, we know that the earliest evidence of prehistoric civilizationdates back at least 10,000 years. These are the first recorded stone temples, as well as the first signs of agriculture. During this period in different parts of the world, ancient societies begin to form. As we explore this explosion of human development, the search for the oldest civilization in the world begins.
When we look further into the past, it becomes harder and harder to date archaeological finds. To make matters more complicated, the end of the last ice age acts as a roadblock to anything that may have come before. Myths and folklore could be all that remains of societies that lived deep in human prehistory. Could their lives elude us forever?
The human origin story is firmly connected to the first civilization to appear on earth. Whichever happens, to be the first civilization, development does seem to occur around the same time. Around 3000BC marks when the first civilization begins to develop across almost every continent.
Let’s explore 7 of the strongest cases for the oldest civilization on earth.
In the region of the world that has now become modern-day Iraq, we see the first signs of civilization on the planet. Generally accepted as being the oldest civilization ever to have existed, Sumeria is thought to have its origins around 6000 years ago, or 4000BC.
In ancient Sumer, the first signs of modern human life emerge. Many of which are still cornerstones of modern-day life.
The Sumerian civilization made critical inventions including:
Possibly the most incredible of all of ancient Sumer’s inventions was their early cuneiform script. It is the earliest system of writing ever seen on earth.
While many of the facts about Sumeria are well documented, the origins of this once great civilization have been lost to history. It is in the land close by to Sumer that the first signs of agriculture appear on earth, around 10,000 years ago.
What made the inhabitants of the ancient world move from simple farming villages to a complex and civilized society? They inspired the processes of developing language, writing, and culture.
While the Sumerians are commonly credited as being the oldest civilization in the world, the Egyptians were by far the most culturally rich and advanced. It is thought that their culture emerged around 3200BC. Although, many believe this date could be even earlier.
Settlements found at Nabta Playa, deep in the Nubian desert that shows signs of early civilization dating before 5000BC. Stone circles, including complex ancient astronomy, provide potential evidence for origins of the Egyptian civilization. Cave drawings have now been found in the Egyptian desert that date to 17 000BC. These could be evidence of the most ancient origins of pre-dynastic Egypt.
The Egyptian civilization record shows that the language and writing system appear in full form around the time they were thought to be invented.
Other interesting lines of evidence show early Egyptian hieroglyphics discuss the idea that their civilization was a legacy. Even without the full details of their origins, ancient Egypt leaves us with some of the most incredible monuments and artworks the world has ever seen.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the most advanced structures ever to be built by human hands. Today archaeologists are unable to confirm exactly how it was made.
Further to the west, at the same time the Sumerians and Egyptians arose, a lesser-known civilization was thriving. The Indus Valley Culture, whose ancient ruins have been found in the regions of south Pakistan and across to northwest India. It was once the largest of all the pre-historic civilizations.
Somewhere around 2600BC is thought to be the time the Indus Valley Culture was settled. It isn’t regarded in the same esteem as its ancient neighboring cultures in terms of monuments or inventions. However, it dwarfs them both in its size, spanning over an estimated 1.2 million kilometers.
The expansive ancient society was only discovered in the 20th century. Of all evidence of the Indus Valley culture, there are very few signs of warfare or struggles to have been excavated. It seems that the culture was a humble one, valuing its inhabitants over riches and idles as its counterparts did.
There have been very few written records found describing the Indus Valley Civilization, meaning most of what we know has come directly from archaeological excavations.
The earliest known civilization to have inhabited the Americas was the ancient Mayans. They are most famously known for their advanced astronomical knowledge, which resulted in extremely accurate and complex calendar systems. For a civilization that is thought to have emerged over 4600 years ago, the Maya were as advanced as we are today in their knowledge of the heavenly bodies.
Their estimations for the solar year, as well as the length of lunar cycles are almost identical to modern astronomy. This knowledge must have taken many years to have obtained. The observation of the as the heavens move extremely slowly, and it’s a testament to their age.
The Maya were also highly skilled craftsmen, building some of the largest and most sophisticated pyramids, temples and sculptures found anywhere in the ancient world.
Around 2700BC is the time historians pin to the first civilization of China. It is thought to have originated in the countries northeast, in the valley of the ancient Yellow River, the second longest in the entire nation.
Folklore also has the origins of the civilization around the Yellow River region. Many ancient tribes started banding together, creating a great population that eventually spread south and throughout the whole country.
China has one of the most uninterrupted histories of the entire ancient world. Their civilization has many traditions that are still alive and thriving in some form or another today.
Ancient China provides the first evidence of gunpowder to have ever been found, as well as the creation of paper, silk, and porcelain.
Sometime around 3000BC saw the emergence of the Minoans. This ancient seafaring culture was the earliest recognized civilization in Europe.
The Minoan civilization was an Aegean Bronze Age civilization on the island of Crete and other Aegean Islands which flourished from about 2700 to 1600 BC, before a late period of decline, finally ending around 1100 BC.
Their stunning artistry and architecture no doubt influenced the many Mediterranean cultures that preceded them. They have a strong presence in the seas around Crete and modern-day Greece. It is no doubt that the Minoans are to thank for inspiring the Greek culture too. This has far-reaching effects with the Greeks being the most influential civilization in modern life.
The Greeks are credited to have developed and passed on to our philosophy, democracy, the Olympics, physics, and many of the original sciences. Although they may not have invented many of these disciplines, they are the civilization in which we inherit them directly from.
This ancient civilization was once a great maritime culture- known for their seafaring and trading. Their culture was dispersed into groups of city-states located on the Mediterranean coastlines of Northern Israel, Lebanon, and Syria.
It was around 3200bc that the culture was first developing its city-states along the Mediterranean Sea.
Not only were the Phoenicians known for their incredible shipbuilding abilities, but they were also highly skilled navigators. Their efforts saw them reach ports as far away as ancient Mesopotamia and even Britain.
Archaeologists have uncovered Phoenician ships still containing precious cargo that was once traded across the world. Copper, jewelry, gold, pottery, and even wine was once traded by the ancient culture.
It was the Phoenicians who are thought to have first brought the alphabet to Greece, which is still used by millions today.
Around the planet lie the ruins of many ancient societies. Each hold secrets and evidence of the story of our past.
While the exact oldest civilization in the world may be slightly controversial, there’s no question on the impact that our ancestors’ lives had on us today.
Today the rise of modern society can be attributed to many of them.
Now it’s up to you. Which of these ancient civilizations do you think is the oldest?
Originally Published By The Human Origin Project: 7 Strong Cases for the Oldest Civilization in the World