New Civilizations in the Americas
and Western Eurasia
1200 – 250 B.C.E.
First Civilizations of the Americas
A. The Mesoamerican Olmecs, 1200-400 B.C.E.
1. The Western Hemisphere was populated
through a series of migrations from the Asian
2. Some scholars place this migration
between 35,000 to 25,000 years ago.
3. Others speculate for an earlier date
between 20,000 to 13,000 years ago.
Bering Strait
Satellite Image
3. Two of the hemisphere’s most
impressive cultural traditions developed in
Mesoamerica and in the Andean region of
South America.
4. Mesoamerica is a region of great
geographic and climatic diversity.
5. The most influential early
Mesoamerican civilization were the
6. The cultural core of early Olmec
civilization was located in San Lorenzo
(1200 – 900 B.C.E.)
7. After the decline of San Lorenzo
came La Venta (900 B.C.E.)
8. The staples of the Mesoamerican
diet included corn, beans, and squash
which was domesticated by 3500 B.C.E.
9. It is believed that Olmec political structure
was the combination of religious and secular
10. The Olmec were polytheistic and most of
their deities had dual natures (male and female).
11. The best-known monuments of Olmec
culture are colossal carved stone heads as large
as 11 feet high and weighing many tons. (It is
believed to be representations of various rulers.)
Olmec Heads
B. Early South American Civilization:
Chavín, 900-250 B.C.E.
1. Geography played an essential role
in the development of human society in
the Andes.
2. The region’s diverse environment
includes a mountainous core, arid coastal
plains, and a dense interior jungle.
3. The Chavín were the first major
urban civilization in South America.
4. Its capital, Chavín de Huántar, was
located appx. 10,300 feet in the eastern
range of the Andes mountains.
5. Their cultural influence existed
roughly about the same time as the
Olmecs between 900 to 250 B.C.E.
6. Chavín’s assertion as the center of
religious and commercial life was largely
dependent on earlier developments in
agriculture and trade.
7. The abundance of fish and mollusks along
the coast gave the society a ready food supply.
8. The introduction of maize from the north
and the development of potatoes and quinoa
allowed for the emergence of a merchant and
artisan class.
9. Unlike other indigenous populations,
the Andean societies had the benefit of the
llama to move goods from one place to the
10. Llamas were the only
domesticated beasts of burden in the
11. It is believed that metallurgy was
first developed in the Andean region.
12. Archaeologists have discovered
three-dimensional gold and gold alloy
13. There is also strong evidence that
there was a clear class distinction between
the rulers and the ruled.
II. Celtic Europe
A. The Spread of the Celts
1. It is important to understand that
people have lived in Europe for at least
30,000 years.
2. However, because of the lack of
writing little is known about these early
3. The term Celtic is a linguistic
designation referring to a branch of IndoEuropean family of languages.
4. The designation of this language
implies that they are mainly a cultural
group that began in Central Europe.
5. The early Celts lived in or near hillforts—lofty natural locations made by
earthwork fortifications.
Celtic Hill-Fort
6. Moving to the west, their cultural
expansion included France, Britain,
Ireland, and northern Spain.
7. By the 5th century B.C.E., they
moved into northern Italy.
8. They made destructive raids into
central Greece, and one group – the
Galatians – settled in central Anatolia.
Celtic Expansion
9. Greeks and Romans were struck by
their physical appearance – burly in size,
long red hair, shaggy mustaches, and
loud, deep voices.
10. Mediterranean neighbors of the
Celts characterized them as wildy fond of
war, courageous, impulsive, overly-fond of
boasting, yet quick-witted and eager to
11. Our greatest source of knowledge about
the Celts comes from Gaius Julius Caesar.
12. Their social structure was divided as
follows: Warriors, priests/bards, and
13. Their priests were called Druids who also
served as judges between feuding clans.
14. Religiously, the Celts were polytheistic
with at least 400 gods and goddesses.
III. The Assyrian Empire
A. God and King
1. Western Asia experienced significant
change with the rise of the Neo-Assyrian
Empire. 1st millennium B.C.E.
2. It is important to realize that even though
the word empire can be applied loosely, the
Assyrians are believed to have the 1st empire
in recorded history.
Neo-Assyrian Empire
3. The Assyrians started out just defending
their realm but eventually they defeated all the
great kingdoms of the day – Elam, Urartu,
Babylon, and Egypt.
4. The Assyrian king was both literally and
symbolically at the center of the Assyrian
5. They believed that the gods chose the
king to rule as their earthly representative and
6. The revered ancient city of Ashur was the
place the king was anointed the new king by the
high priest.
7. The duties of the king was enormous
including receiving information from
messengers, appointing officials, hearing
complaints, receiving foreign envoys, and
making military decisions.
8. One such duty that took a lot of time was
managing the state religion.
Assyrian High Priest and King
B. Conquest and Control
1. An important factor to Assyrian domination
was their superior military organization and
2. Their army consisted of men from two
groups: (1) men obligated to give military service
due to land grants, and (2) peasants and slaves
whose service was contributed by large
3. At its peak, they were able to mobilize a
half-million troops.
4. Some of the technologies employed by the
Assyrians included Iron weapons, effective use
of cavalry, mobile towers to position archers, and
rams to batter weak points.
5. The Assyrian also used mass deportation
– the forcible uprooting of large numbers of
people – as a means to accomplish a number of
6. The Assyrians controlled a large region,
which composed of many different ethnic
groups. This posed a problem for them.
Israeli Mass-Deporation
C. Assyrian Society and Culture
1. Assyrian society contained three
basic classes: (1) Free, landowning
citizens (2) farmers and artisans (3)
2. The Assyrian government normally
did not distinguish between natives and an
increasing numbers of subjects and
3. The vast majority of people in the
Assyrian empire worked on the land.
4. They produced so much food that
there was an increasing number of
specialized jobs.
5. They used a basic medium of
exchange, silver, which was weighed out
for the purposes of transaction.
IV. Israel
A. Origins, Exodus, and Settlement
1. During the time period of which we speak,
Israel would probably seem to be quite
2. But they were destined to play an
important role in world history.
3. The people that inhabited the land known
as Israel have gone by many names:
Canaan, Israel, Palestine, Hebrews,
Israelites, and Jews.
Ancient Israel
4. The history of ancient Israel comes from
archaeological excavations, references from
Egyptian and Assyrian documents, and the
problematic collection of the Hebrew Bible.
(called the Old Testament by Christians)
5. Historical Israel can be traced from about
2000 B.C.E. to 500 B.C.E.
6. The Hebrew language is Semitic and
closely related to Phoenician and Aramaic.
More distantly related to Akkadian and Arabic.
7. The early male leaders of the Hebrew
Bible include the figures of Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob (Israel).
8. Abraham was born in the southern
Mesopotamia in the city of Ur and was disgusted
by the idol worship practiced in his homeland.
9. According to Biblical accounts, he travels
west through the desert until arriving in the
“promised land” given to him as part of a
covenant with the Israelite god, Yahweh.
Promised Land
B. Rise of Monarchy
1. Around 1200 B.C.E., troubles began to
arise around the eastern Mediterranean.
2. Philistines, who are possible connected
with the pre-Greek populations of the Aegean
Sea, occupied the coastal plain of Israel.
2. Because of the constant war, a religious
leader named Samuel recognized the need for a
strong central authority.
3. Samuel anointed Saul as the first
king of Israel in 1020 B.C.E.
4. Saul had mix success, and when he
died in battle, he was succeeded by David.
5. David’s most enduring legacy was
to complete Israel’s transition from tribal
confederacy to unified monarchy.
C. Fragmentation and Dispersal
1. After the death of David’s son Solomon
(920 B.C.E.), the monarchy divided into two
kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the
2. This period saw the crystallization of
Monotheism (the belief in one god).
3. Many Israelites were attracted to the
ecstatic religion of the storm-god Baal and the
fertility god Astarte, while Judah remained loyal
the belief in the all-powerful god Yahweh.
4. The Neo-Assyrian empire destroyed Israel
in 721 B.C.E. deporting many of its population
5. The Neo-Babylonian kingdom captured
Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, in 527 B.C.E.
destroying the first temple.
6. The deportation of both peoples from their
homeland became the origin of the Jewish
Diaspora – a Greek word meaning “dispersal”
or “scattering”.
V. Phoenicia and the Mediterranean
A. The Phoenician City-States
1. The ancient inhabitants of presentday Syria, Lebanon, and Israel are
commonly designated Phoenicians.
2. They probably referred to
themselves as “Can’ani” – Canaanites.
Ancient Phoenicia
3. Due to a series of invasions by both
Israelites and Philistines, the land of the
Canaanites was no more than a narrow
strip of land.
4. The Greek term Phoinikes may
mean “red men” which either refers to their
skin or the purple pigment they used to
make expensive garments.
5. The most important city-states of
Phoenicia was Aradus, Byblos, Berytus, Sidon,
Sarepta, and Tyre.
6. The had the first alphabetical system of
writing which was considerably more advanced
than that of Cuneiform and hieroglyphics.
7. Byblos was the most important city-state
during the 2nd Millennium B.C.E. because it was
a major distribution center for cedar timber. (the
Greek word biblion, meaning “book written on
papyrus from Byblos,” comes down as our word
B. Expansion into the Mediterranean
1. In the 9th century B.C.E., Tyre began
to colonize west.
2. Phoenician merchants sailing the
Aegean Sea are mentioned in Homer’s
Iliad and Odyssey.
3. The Phoenician triangle composed
of (1) North Africa (2) Spain, and (3) major
Mediterranean islands.
Phoenician Colonies
4. Eventually, the most important
colony of the Phoenicians was Carthage.
5. It was established at a strategic
location where the sea crossing from
Europe to Africa was the narrowest.
6. With a population of roughly
400,000, Carthage was one of the largest
cities in the world in the 1st millennium
7. The most important arm of
Carthaginian power was the navy.
8. Foreign policy was intimately linked
to its economic interests.
9. The Carthaginians were polytheistic
– the chief deities including Baal and Tanit
– and the elites sacrificed their own male
children at times of crisis.

New Civilizations in the Americas and Western Eurasia …