Mesopotamia and Egypt: Civilization and Society from Ancient to Classical

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A brief history and timelines of Mesopotamia’s and Egypt’s civilization and society, from ancient to classical periods.

In pre-history, Neolithic was a revolutionary period in human cultural development, following the Palaeolithic era. It led to the development from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age, making the end of prehistoric times and the beginning of ancient times. Characterized by the use of bronze for making tools, weapons and ornaments, the Bronze Age lasted from around 4000 BC to the beginning of Iron Age in 1000 AD. These were the golden period of technological inventions and development including the wheel, the plow, writing, money and cities.

In the period preceding 4000 BC, the earliest of the ancient civilizations had emerged in the Mesopotamian region. Though Mesopotamia referred to the area between the two rivers of Euphrates and Tigris, it is taken to include eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and all of Iraq. As the hilly northern regions of the area received more rainfall, they were settled first. The southern and central regions had a much more dry soil and climate.

The two rivers of Euphrates and Tigris usually overflowed because of heavy deposition of silt. However, the soil was extremely fertile. By around 4000 BC, the southern region, with the help of canals and drainage systems, the southern region overtook the north in prosperity. Soon enough, it became known for the civilizations of Sumer – considered as the world’s first civilization. The Sumerians are credited for earliest writing called cuneiform writing, and later Babylon, were the first set of laws in recorded history, Hammurabi’s Code, was invented.

In ancient Egypt, civilization flourished along the River Nile. Aside from developing many of their own inventions, Egyptians adopted many Mesopotamian innovations. The Egyptians are known for their pyramids and a 365-day solar calendar, among the most significant ones. Supported by the River Nile and protected from invaders by the Sahara Desert, the Egyptian civilization, which was considered the longest in history, lasted from 3100 BC to 30 BC, around 3,000 years.

Mesopotania Timeline

4000 BC.  Sumerians settled in Mesopotamia. City states established. Copper was first used. Clay and stone seals were introduced.

3900 BC.  Ubaid culture started.

3600 BC.  The city of Uruk was founded.

3500 BC.  Sumerians invented the wheel. Copper casting was developed. Cuneiform writing started in Sumer.

3400 BC.  Cylindrical seal was first used in Sumer. Chariot was invented.

2750 BC.  First Sumerian Dynasty of Ur.

2400 BC.  Bronze-making began.

2340-2125 BC.  Sargon I began the Akkadian rule and unified the whole region into a single kingdom.

1800-1170 BC.  The Old Babylonian period. Code of Hammurabi was written.

1600-1100 BC.  The periods of Hittites hegemony. Iron was first used.

1200-612 BC.  The Assyrian period.

612-539 BC.  The Neo-Babylonian period.

539 BC.  The fall of Babylon and the beginning of Persian dominance.

Egyptian Timeline

3100-2950 C.  Late pre-dynastic period. Hieroglyphic writing and cities were first established.

2950-2575 BC.  Early dynastic period. First pyramid was built at Saqqara. Egyptians made leavened bread.

2575-2150 BC.  Old kingdom. Great pyramids were built at Dahshur and Giza.

1975-1640 BC.  Middle kingdom. Upper and lower Egypt reunited by Mentuhotep.

1539-1075 BC.  New kingdom. This was the peak of Egypt’s rule.

332 BC-395 AD.  Alexander occupies Egypt. After Macedonians and Ptolemies, Romans made it a province of the Roman Empire.

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Photo Courtesy:

Pyramids of Giza  Wikimedia Creative Commons


Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.

The Story of Inventions from Antiquity to the Present. Tandem Verlag GmbH, 2008.


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