Chapter 1 describes the emergence of the first humans and the development of civilizations based on farming. The earliest civilizations emerged in the river valleys of the Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile Rivers. The founding of the ancient Indian and Chinese civilizations brought the creation of major religions and philosophies.
Section 1 The First Humans
Our knowledge of the earliest humans, or hominids, is based on discoveries of fossils and artifacts. Over several million years advanced species appeared, including Homo sapiens, from which subgroups emerged. Today, all humans belong to the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens. Each surviving species and subgroup used more advanced skills and tools than the last. During the Paleolithic Age humans invented tools that helped them hunt and learned how to use fire. The Neolithic Revolution is marked by the rise of systematic agriculture-the domestication of animals and the growing of crops on a regular basis. Civilizations emerged in response to these changes. Civilizations are complex cultures in which large numbers of human beings share a number of common elements.
Section 2 Western Asia and Egypt
Mesopotamia, located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, was the birthplace of several of the earliest known civilizations. Irrigation and drainage techniques made regular farming possible. The Akkadians eventually overran the Sumerian city-states that had been established by 3000 B.C. and created the first empire in world history. One of the rulers, Hammurabi, is remembered for his strict code of law. The Egyptian civilization grew out a farming economy along the Nile River. During the three major periods in early Egyptian civilization the Egyptians created an extensive government bureaucracy and built the pyramids as tombs for mummified pharaohs. Around 1200 B.C., several smaller groups established small kingdoms and city-states. The Israelites were a minor political force, but they created a world religion known today as Judaism. With the help of a large army with iron weapons, the Assyrians also established a new empire by 700 B.C. By the time of the collapse of the Assyrian Empire, the Persian Empire became the leading power in western Asia. Under Cyrus, the Persians created a state that stretched from Asia Minor to western India.
Section 3 India and China
As early as 3000 B.C., an advanced civilization known as the Indus, or Harappan, civilization, emerged in northern India. It was toppled by the Aryans, Indo-European nomads who brought with them two enduring features of Indian civilization: Hinduism and the caste system. In the sixth century B.C., Siddartha Gautama began the religion of Buddhism as a rival to Hinduism. Despite their cultural influence on India, the Aryans never united the region politically. The Mauryan dynasty was the first to rule a centralized Indian Empire, which flourished during the reign of Asoka. After Asoka's death, the Mauryan Empire declined and eventually collapsed in 183 B.C. The Shang dynasty created the first flourishing Chinese civilization. Their successors, the Zhou, claimed to rule by a Mandate of Heaven. During their dynasty, powerful states emerged within the kingdom, equipped with cavalry and advanced weapons. The Zhou dynasty eventually collapsed and was followed by a period of civil war. The state of Qin eventually defeated its rivals, expanded the empire, and began building the Great Wall of China. The Han dynasty followed another period of civil war and adopted Confucianism as the guiding principle of the empire.