A civilization is defined as a complex society, characterized by urban development, social stratification imposed by a cultural elite, symbolic systems of communication (e.g. writing systems), and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment. The term emerged in 18th century France amongst encyclopedists, to describe the progress of humanity as opposed to barbarism.

There were, and there are many cultures in the world, but not all cultures gave rise to civilizations. A culture is a product of any social behavior and norms found in human societies, while civilization is defined by more complex elements like collective mentality, economy, social and political organizations. The most important factors that influence the rise and development of civilizations are:

  • Complex agricultural systems which can produce an excess of food
  • Division of labor
  • Organized life in cities
  • Organizing multiple cities as a part of a state
  • Organized religion
  • Formulating and writing laws

History suggests that the most important factor that influences the emergence of a civilization is agricultural development. First civilizations emerged from fertile lands in the vicinity of large rivers, and there is a good reason for that. Rivers provide all the water needed for irrigating fields, and offer open roads for transporting food and goods. They are the basis for improving food production and effective trade between cities.

The rise of a civilization is a long process, the way it develops is influenced by many diverse factors. Civilizations usually have the tendency to spread and conquer other cultures and civilizations, imposing their rules, laws, religion and culture on the conquered ones. Sometimes civilizations totally erase those cultures, but sometimes the culture changes and transforms the civilization which conquered it. Development of a civilization was (and is) a continuous process, ever-changing and alive. Human history, being a product of such process, is a continuous story of rise and fall of various civilizations.

Studying our Ancients won’t just tell us about what happened in the past, but also what might happen in our future. The development of technology in the last few decades allowed us to find many archaeological sites all over the world and test their age more accurately. We will probably see the history being rewritten in the next few decades, as many new evidence suggests that humanity and the concept of civilization are a lot older than we initially thought.

In the following text we will present some of the most well-known ancient civilizations, their history and what makes them unique.


Mesoptamian Art & Architecture

Mesopotamia is used as a term to describe the historical region of Southwest Asia, situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. If we look into etymology of the name, we will find that it originates from the Greek word that literally means “between rivers”. Mesopotamia is the northern part of Fertile Crescent – a crescent shaped region which includes modern-day Middle East, Egypt and southeastern parts of Turkey.

The first documented written records come from the earliest known civilization in Mesopotamia, namely Sumer.

Writing emerged independently in different parts of the world, but the first documented written records come from the earliest known civilization in Mesopotamia – Sumer. The earliest texts are found in the ancient cities of Uruk and Jemdet Nasr, that date around 4th millennium BC.

Sumer constituted out of many independent city-states, divided by canals and boundary walls or stones. There are five cities that were said to originate from the era before the flood: Eridu, Bad-tibira, Larsa, Sippar and Shuruppak. Eridu is considered to be the oldest city in Mesopotamia. Sumerians believed that Eridu was the home of Enki, their god of water. Cities that emerged later include Uruk, Kish, Ur, Nippur, Lagash, Akkad, Isin and many others. Each city was centered around a temple of its patron god or goddess. The temples were usually built on large layered platforms called ziggurats. The city was ruled by the king (lugal) or priestly governor (ensi).

Akkadians, under the rule of Sargon the Great, conquered Sumerian city-states around 2300 BC and established the Akkadian Empire. In the first two centuries of the Akkadian rule, people spoke both Sumerian and Akkadian languages, but somewhere around 2000 BC Akkadian replaced Sumerian. Although, Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial and scientific language until the 1st century AD. After the fall of Akkadian Empire in 22nd century BC, the people of Mesopotamia coalesced into two major nations – Assyria in the north, and Babylonia in the south.

Mesopotamian city-states and empires had a developed culture, laws, complex social and religious rituals and belief systems. They were also great artists, musicians and craftsmen. They imported semi-precious stones and precious metals from other cities, and made incredible items with great detail and complex ornaments. The famous “Lyres of Ur” were found during the excavation of Royal Cemetery of Ur, and present the second oldest surviving stringed instruments in the world. They used wheels for transportation and made chariots.

When it comes to science and technology, people of Mesopotamia left a rich legacy:

  • They were adept mathematicians who developed astronomy and calendar
  • Oldest Babylonian medical texts date back to the first half of 2nd millennium BC
  • They invented multiple metal and copper processing techniques, as well as some flood control, water storage and irrigation methods
  • They developed glass-making techniques and lamps

The List of Kings

In Nippur, German-American scholar Herman Hilprecht found a four thousand years old tablet, written in Sumerian cuneiform. The tablet described the list of Sumerian kings and the length of their rule, classified by their dynasty. Since that discovery, other 18 exemplars of the list were found. When compared to each other, those lists are different, but there is enough common material to conclude that they originate from a single account of Sumerian history. The list also includes antediluvian rulers (before the flood), whose lengths of reign have baffled historians since the tablets were translated. A part of the inscription on the tablet quotes: “After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug. In Eridug, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28.800 years.” The king who ruled after Alulim, named Alalngar, supposedly ruled for 36.000 years. After his rule, “the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira”, and the first king of Bad-tibira ruled for 43.200 years. All eight antediluvian rulers lived impossibly long according to modern measures. Kings who came after the flood had lived and reigned significantly shorter compared to their predecessors. The first kings after the flood ruled for a few centuries; that number constantly decreases as we get closer to the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, when it reached a value that is considered usual by today’s measures.

Indus Valley Civilization

Indus Valley Civilization ruins

Civilization of the Indus Valley emerged from the basins of the Indus river in 4th millennium BC, lasted until 1300 BC, and reached its peak between 2600 BC and 1900 BC. The Indus civilization is also known as Harappan Civilization, named after the archaeological site of Harappa, where the first evidence of this civilization was found. Harappan or Indus Valley Civilization extended from modern day Balochistan in Pakistan, to Uttar Pradesh in India.

The meaning of the ancient Indus writing remains a mystery till this day, as the language still hasn’t been deciphered yet.

The cities of the Indus Valley had developed social hierarchies, their own writing system, large cities and developed trade routes. Evidence of complex religious practices go back as far as 5500 BC. At Harappa, we see a clear evidence of urban planning. Many houses had bathrooms, wells and underground drainage systems. Writings are found on pottery, seals, amulets, copper tables and other items, but their meaning remains a mystery till this day, as the still language hasn’t been deciphered yet.

Evidence of trade between Mesopotamia and Indus Valley was recorded in Sumerian documents, dated around 2000 BC. Sumerians referred to the Indus valley as Meluhha, and to its people as Meluhhaites. Initially, trade was limited almost exclusively to spices, textiles, precious metals and cedar tree wood.

Due to the fact that Indus script is still undeciphered, we don’t know the details about their belief systems, if they had a military, how the cities were organized and who ruled them; it is unknown whether the cities were independent city-states, or if they were part of a larger, organized state. That is why the history of Indus Valley Civilization remains shrouded in mystery and open to interpretations.

What we certainly know is that people of the Indus Valley Civilization had very accurate and developed measuring system for mass, length and time. They also developed new methods and techniques in metallurgy, and made items from bronze, copper, lead and tin. Large amounts of pottery, jewelry, seals, anatomically detailed figurines and sculptures were found at the excavation sites, which suggests artistic development, as well as craftsmanship.

The Indus Valley Civilization started to decline around 1800 BC. The reason for this remains unclear. Some historians suggest that the cause of that is drying up of the Saraswati river, while others suggest that a great flood occurred in that area at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. Either event would have very adverse effects on agriculture, trade and the economy of the area.

A large group of nomadic cattle-herders, the Aryans, migrated from central Asia to Indus river valley around 1500 BC. They brought their Indo-Aryan language with them, as well as their belief system, and spread them wherever they settled. The period of India’s history between 1500 BC and 500 BC was named the Vedic period, after the Vedas – religious texts written in Sanskrit, an Old Indo-Aryan language. The Vedas later directly influenced the occurrence and evolution of Hinduism. During the Vedic period many cities and kingdoms have emerged, as well as social stratification distinctive to India. Although Aryan migration changed the religion, society and life of the Indus Valley Civilization, many pre-Aryan customs are still remembered and practiced in India. Some historians suggest that certain gods in the Hindu pantheon originate from pre-Aryan deities.


Pyramids of Giza Egypt

Powerful waters of Nile birthed and raised one of the most intriguing civilizations that lived on planet Earth – Ancient Egypt. The French campaign in Egypt and Syria (1798-1801) marked the beginning of ”Egyptomania” in Europe. In July 1799, near the town of Rashid (Rosetta), a French soldier found a big granodiorite stone with the Decree of Memphis (196 BC) inscribed, in three different scripts – Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic and Greek. This stone was used for deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs by comparing them to two previously known scripts. First man who managed to do it was the famous Jean-François Champollion, French philologist and scholar. His works opened the door to a new world. Many historians and archaeologists swerved to Egypt wanting to unveil the great mystery. More than two centuries passed since that discovery, and yet there is still much discussion about many different aspects of Ancient Egypt. The more we discover and learn, the more we realize that Egypt is still as great mystery as it was when Rosetta Stone was discovered.

The story we know so far begins around 6000 BC, when people who would build the Egyptian civilization settled in the Nile River valley. Predictable flooding pattern of the Nile enabled them to develop irrigation systems and advanced agriculture. Predynastic Egyptians were mostly shepherds and farmers. They made pottery and wove linen fabrics. Favorable environmental conditions for agriculture, combined with the discovery of bronze had enabled the development of cities and organized society.

Ancient egyptian illustration ox and harvesting

The history of the ancient Egyptian civilization has been divided into 31 dynasties. First Dynasty emerged with the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the rule of king Menes (commonly known as Narmer) around 3100 BC. Memphis became capital city of the new kingdom, because of its proximity to trade roads and agricultural fields. This marked the beginning of Early Dynastic period, which lasted around four centuries. The cult of kings and the cult of death became deeply integrated in Egypt’s culture during this period.

The history of the ancient Egyptian civilization has traditionally been divided into 30-31 dynasties and spanned over 3000 years.

The Old Kingdom (2686-2181 BC), commonly known as the “Age of pyramids” was a period from the Third Dynasty through Sixth Dynasty, marked by prosperity, internal security and major advances in technology, architecture and art. Information about the history of Old Kingdom is scarce, and it is mostly derived from architecture rather than other archeological sources.

Kings of the Old Kingdom built what later became a landmark of Egypt, everlasting source of inspiration and mystery – the pyramids. They were built to honor the gods and to be the eternal resting place of the kings. The earliest known pyramid is the Step Pyramid of Djoser, built between 2630 BC and 2610 BC. It was designed by Djoser’s counselor, high priest and architect, Imhotep. The most famous pyramids lie in the outskirts of Cairo, in Giza. Pyramid complex in Giza includes the Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure. All three pyramids were built during the Fourth Dynasty. Herodotus recorded that the Great Pyramid (or Pyramid of Khufu) was built in about twenty years. Six million tons of stone brought from Mokkatam hills were used in the making, which means that on average 300 000 tons of stone were excavated, transported, cut and put into place every year. This was an endeavor that required great abundance of food and resources, expert knowledge, organized labor and very efficient bureaucracy. Such building project could only be achieved under a strong central government. With such competence and knowledge, the Fourth Dynasty left an everlasting mark on the world.

During the Fifth and Sixth Dynasty priests began to acquire more and more power, influencing local governors to take greater control over their regions. Central government in Memphis grew weaker, until it collapsed by the end of the Sixth Dynasty.

The period between 2181 BC and 2125 BC (from Seventh to Tenth, and a part of Eleventh Dynasty), known as the First Intermediate Period, was marked by the weakening of central government. Recent research suggests that drought caused by climate change between 2200 BC and 2150 BC may have influenced the food shortages that initiated political disputes and civil disorder. Weakened central government couldn’t aid the drought-stricken areas, so the regional governors, empowered by priests, started challenging the king’s office. They started competing for power and territory, which resulted in division of the Old Kingdom – one clan controlled the Upper Egypt in Thebes, while the other controlled Lower Egypt in Herakleopolis. Around 2055 BC, Theban forces led by Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II, defeated the Herakleopolitan rulers reuniting the Kingdom once again. This marked the beginning of the Middle Kingdom.

The Middle Kingdom (a part of Eleventh, through Thirteenth Dynasty) lasted until 1773 BC. This period is considered to be the cultural renaissance of Ancient Egypt. Economic and political stability was restored, people of Egypt had started again to focus on art, literature, technology and monumental building projects. Kings of the Middle Kingdom had carried out successful military campaigns to reconquer the regions that were lost in the First Intermediate Period. Many quarries and gold mines were regained, as well as vast agricultural lands. Political and military security combined with the abundance of resources enabled the country to flourish both economically and culturally. This period of security and flourishment started to decline when the last great ruler of the Middle Kingdom, Amenemhat III, allowed Canaanites to settle in the Delta region to provide enough labor force for his ambitious building and mining activities. Severe flooding of the Nile thwarted his plans, and the economy started to decline. This decline will cause the onset of the Second Intermediate Period (1773-1550 BC). Canaanites who settled in the region, called Hyksos, began to take control over the Nile Delta and build their power in Egypt. City of Avaris was the seat of their power. They kept Egyptian models of government and integrated a lot of Egyptian elements into their culture. They introduced horse-drawn chariots and composite bow into Egypt. Egyptians who remained in the south wanted to reunite their lands, and drive out the foreign invaders. Conflicts lasted for decades, until eventually Ahmose I defeated Hyksos forces and reunited the land, establishing a new dynasty.

The New Kingdom period (from Eighteenth to Twentieth Dynasty), which lasted between 1550 BC and 1069 BC, was a time of economic, diplomatic and military prosperity. Successful military campaigns of Tuthmosis I and Tuthmosis III made the largest empire in the history of Egypt. During the rule of Nineteenth Dynasty kings adopted the title of pharaohs. Some of the most famous pharaohs, like Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, Tutankhamun and Ramesses II lived and ruled during this period. Monumental building projects continued; new temples were built, especially in Thebes. Pharaohs were buried in the Valley of the Kings. The abundance of wealth attracted a lot of foreign invaders. Egypt eventually succumbed to the attacks and lost many territories. Both external threats and internal problems caused the New Kingdom to collapse. This was the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period (1069-664 BC), after which Egypt never regained its former power and glory.

Third Intermediate Period (from Twenty-first to Twenty-fifth Dynasty) was marked by continuous battles in the Mediterranean and political disturbances. The Late Period (from Twenty-sixth to Thirty-first Dynasty) lasted between 664 BC and 525 BC. It was marked by foreign rule and the spread of Greek influence. Assyrians and Persians controlled Egypt at different times during this period. In 332 BC, Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and made it a part of Macedonian Empire. Alexander’s successors established the Ptolemaic Kingdom, with the capital city of Alexandria. The famous Library of Alexandria became the center of science, culture and learning; Greek influence grew stronger. Ptolemais kept Egyptian model of government and respected their religious beliefs, but that wasn’t enough to keep the peace. Egyptians rebelled, which escalated into a great mob in Alexandria, after the death of Ptolemy IV. Unstable currents in Egypt during this time drew Romans to send their forces and secure it as a province of the Roman Empire.

The period between 30 BC and 641 AD was marked as the Roman Period of Egypt’s history. After the Battle of Actium, in 30 BC, Egypt became a part of the Roman Empire. Octavian, who later became Emperor Augustus, defeated Marc Anthony and Cleopatra, assuring the control over Egypt. Spread of Christianity during the 1st and 2nd century AD was the final blow to the Ancient Egyptian culture. When the old gods died, so did the civilization which worshipped them.

Minoan Civilization

Minoan frescos cup bearers

The island of Crete lies in the Mediterranean Sea, roughly at the same distance from the mainland of Greece, the Cyclades, Rhodes and Libya. Its proximity to Europe, Africa and Asia granted common visits from the sea travelers and enabled trade to flourish. Crete is set in a geographically unstable area, affected by frequent earthquakes, some of which caused severe destruction of cities throughout island’s history. Oher environmental changes have also influenced the development of Crete – many submerged settlements have been found, indicating that the sea level has risen since ancient times.

The Minoan civilization flourished on the island of Crete between 2800 BC and 1100 BC.

During the Bronze Age, between 2800 BC and 1100 BC, Minoan civilization flourished on the island of Crete. The term “Minoan” refers to the king Minos of Knossos, from the legend of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth; it is attributed to Arthur Evans, the famous archaeologist who rediscovered and studied this Aegean ancient civilization. Evans divided the Minoan period into three eras – early (3000-2100 BC), middle (2100-1500 BC) and late era (1500-1100 BC). He developed this classification on the based on stylistic changes on the pottery found at the sites. This chronology was shown to be a bit problematic in latter studies, so in 1958 professor Nikolas Platon proposed a new chronology, based on the architecture of palaces. Platon divided Minoan history into four eras – Prepalatial, Protopalatial, Neopalatial, and Postpalatial.

Prepalatial period includes a broad time period, spanning from around 7000 BC to 1900 BC. It is divided into three sections: Neolithic, Early Prepalatial and Late Prepalatial. Its characterized by the development of large, decentralized settlements. Archaeological evidence indicates that the palaces revolved around communities and that societies didn’t have strong hierarchal structures.

During the last few centuries of this period, a new political system started to establish. Authority was centered around a king, community palaces started to develop a bureaucratic administration. This led to social stratification of the early Minoan society and creation of a social hierarchy.

Protopalatial period (1900-1750 BC) was marked with emergence of Linear A and Cretan hieroglyphic writing systems, social upheaval, prosperity, trade and migrations. During this period, Minoans began to establish their colonies on other Greek islands, including Thera, Rodos, Melos and Kithira. Trade with Egypt and Middle East continued to flourish and develop.

Protopalatial period abruptly ended with the destruction of palaces around 1700 BC. The exact cause of the destruction is unknown. It is believed that it was caused by a natural disaster such as earthquake. Nevertheless, Minoan civilization continued to flourish in the oncoming centuries.

Neopalatial period (1750-1490 BC) began with the reconstruction of destroyed palaces and building structures even greater in beauty. The famous palace of Knossos was built during this period, along with many other palaces, big and small. Archaeological evidence indicates that Minoan Crete reached its peak during this period – lavish palaces, paved roads, seals, golden artifacts and beautiful works of art tell a story of extensive trade activity, great wealth and development. Sophisticated art on seals and pottery, beautiful frescoes on palace walls display both secular and religious scenes.

During the middle of the 15th century BC this period of flourishment was again interrupted by a natural disaster. It is suggested that eruption of Thera volcano on Santorini had caused the destruction and abandonment of many Minoan cities.

At the beginning of Postpalatial period (1400-1150 BC) many cities remain destroyed and abandoned. Only Knossos and Phaistos remained active centers of influence, but significantly weakened. Minoan religion was influenced by the beliefs of mainland Greek societies during this period, which suggests that Crete was most likely under control of Myceneans.

Around 1150 BC the Dorians have conquered and destroyed Myceneans in Peloponnese, and reached Crete by 1100 BC. Elements of Minoan and Mycenean culture were assimilated by the conquerors, and developed into a new, Hellenic culture.


The history of ancient Chinese civilization begins in the 2nd millennium BC, with the Xia dynasty which ruled over an area by the Yellow River from 2070 to 1600 BC. There isn’t a lot of information about China during this time, as the first written record about this dynasty originates from the oracle bone inscriptions from the late Shang period, in 13th century BC.

Shang dynasty (1600-1046 BC) came to power after the Battle of Mingtiao, in which they defeated Xia dynasty and took the throne. According to the Records of the Grand Historian, thirty-one kings ruled over the course of Shang dynasty period. Capital city was moved six times; in 1350 BC it was finally moved to Yin, which marked the beginning of the golden age of Shang dynasty. Intricate works of the craftsmen from this period show great skill and artistic value.

Shang dynasty has reached its end in 1046 BC, when the army of the last king, Di Xin, was defeated by Wu of Zhou. Wu of Zhou took the throne and established Zhou dynasty, which would rule China for the next eight centuries.

Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BC) is the longest lasting dynasty in Chinese history. It also developed in the Yellow River valley. Near the end of the 2nd millennium BC, they invaded and conquered territories of Shang dynasty, under the leadership of Wu of Zhou.

Zhou dynasty ruled under a semi-feudal system with centralized power. The kings of the Zhou dynasty introduced the Mandate of Heaven, a concept which includes a belief that it is the will of the universe and a part of natural order for kings to rule. The kings were set to align earthly affairs with those of the heavens and keep peace and harmony. If the king failed to do so, he would be overthrown and replaced with someone worthy of such a task.

Some of the most famous Chinese philosophers including Confucius, Sun Tzu and Laozi lived during the Zhou dynasty.

China went through great cultural and technological development during the reign of Zhou dynasty. Some of the most famous Chinese philosophers including Confucius, Sun Tzu and Laozi lived during this time. To be exact, they lived during the Spring and Autumn period (722-476 BC), a time of great instability and decentralization. The power of Zhou dynasty grew weaker, and subsequently China got divided in hundreds smaller states. As time went by, some states grew larger and more powerful, claiming suzerainty over smaller states. This instability escalated during the Warring States period (476-221 BC), when the seven most prominent states battled each other for dominance. Even though it was a chaotic time, many cultural and scientific developments were made, especially in the field of mathematics. Ying Zheng, prince of the state Qin, was the one to unify the conflicting states in 214 BC; he proclaimed himself as the First Emperor, marking the beginning of Imperial China.

Qin dynasty was quickly overthrown by the Han dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD), which brought a golden age in the history of China. The reign of Han dynasty was marked by stability and prosperity. They expanded the borders of the country and popularized and imprinted Confucianist way of thinking in Chinese civilization, making a lasting mark on their mentality.

Mayan Civilization

Maya temple

Mayan civilization developed in Mesoamerica and occupied the territories of modern-day Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. This area has a very diverse geography – from humid jungles to parched deserts, and snow-swept heights of volcanoes. Mayan lands occupied both highlands (above 305 m) and lowlands of the area. First settlers began occupying this area at least 13.000 years ago. Period between settlement and 2000 BC, called the Archaic period, was marked by the gradual development of agriculture and forming more organized settlements like villages.

Villages grew into big cities and complex societies during the Pre-classic period (2000 BC – 250 AD), when the Maya developed stable cultivation of crops such as maize, squashes, beans and chili peppers. Due to geography of the region, villages were separated and developed into cities unevenly. When the first monumental structures were built during the Middle Pre-classic period (1000-400 BC), majority of Maya were still simple peasants living in small villages. Every culture evolved at different rate; some have already witnessed their rise and fall while others were developing.

On the hot coastal plain of southern Veracruz and Tabasco, Olmecs developed the earliest civilization in Mesoamerica. Olmec civilization emerged during the Early Pre-classic period (2000-1000 BC) and flourished between 1500 BC and 400 BC. They were the first Mesoamerican civilization to build pyramids and other monumental structures. The most recognizable features of Olmec art and architecture are colossal heads, stelae, jade face masks and Kunz axes. They were also the first civilization in Mesoamerica to develop a writing system.

Olmec civilization mysteriously disappeared in the 4th century BC. Some scholars suggest that depopulation and eventual extinction of Olmecs was a consequence of a climate change, while others say that Olmecs relocated because of increased volcanic activity in the area. Whatever the cause may be, the Olmecs eventually abandoned their cities and disappeared.

The Classic period (250-900 AD) refers to the period when the lowland Maya raised monuments dated using the Long Count calendar. This period was marked by the peak of monumental architecture, art and urbanism. Maya peoples lived in city-states similar to the ones in Ancient Greece, and influenced each other by trade, diplomacy or military power.

During the Early Classic period, Mayan city-states were significantly influenced by the great city of Teotihuacan. During the 4th century, Teotihuacan rulers decided to spread their power and take power over nearby cities. They were successful in doing so, and established their dynasty in the city of Tikal, which would eventually become the most powerful city in central lowlands.

Most important city in the southeast was the city of Copán. Copán existed since the Early Pre-classic period; it grew into a vast kingdom during the Classic period. It reached the peak of cultural development during the rule of king Uaxaclajuun Ubʼaah Kʼawiil (695-738). His reign ended violently, causing serious political instability in the region, and the greatness of Copán started to deteriorate.

For unknown reasons, Mayan civilization suffered a collapse during the 9th century. Cities were abandoned in southern lowlands; this was possibly caused by a severe drought and a change of climate. However, cities in the Yucatan Peninsula remained inhabited and continued to develop.

During the Post-classic period (950-1539 AD) Mayan population was mostly concentrated in cities built near permanent sources of water. The abandoned cities weren’t quickly resettled. Cities in highlands and northern lowlands became the new centers of activity. The famous Chichen Itza was one of those cities. It was a very powerful and influential city in the northern lowlands during the Post-classic period. City of Chichen Itza is famous for its astronomically built pyramid; during the equinoxes, pyramid casts a shadow on itself to align with the carving of the Mayan serpent god’s head, forming the body of the snake. This structure shows a vast knowledge of astronomy and mathematics. Chichen Itza declined as a regional center by 1100 AD because of political instability and riots. The number of inhabitants dropped and the building of monumental structures ceased.

Spanish conquest in the 16th and 17th century nearly destroyed Mayan culture. In spite of those efforts, it remained alive until this day. Maya who lived in remote villages managed to get away from the Spanish and keep the legacy of their ancestors. Many archaeological evidence was found amongst the natives, who kept the artifacts within their families for generations. And yet, so many aspects and parts of the Mayan story remain unknown. Origins of their sophisticated calendar, vast knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, prophecies, beliefs and technological achievements remain a mystery until this day.


  • Adams, Robert McCormick (1966). The Evolution of Urban Society.
  • Jane R. McIntosh (2005). Ancient Mesopotamia – New Perspectives.
  • Irfan Habib (2002). The Indus Civilization.
  • Ian Shaw (2000). Oxford History of Ancient Egypt.
  • Michael Rice (2003). Egypt’s Making – The origins of Ancient Egypt 5000–2000 BC.
  • F. Willetts (1978). The Civilization of Ancient Crete. University of California Press.
  • https://ancient-greece.org/history/minoan.html
  • Jinfan Zhang (2014). The Tradition and Modern Transition of Chinese Law. Springer.
  • David N Keightley, Noel Barnard (1983). The Origins of Chinese civilization. University of California Press.
  • Simon Martin, Nikolai Grube (2000). Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya. Thames and Hudson.
  • Michael D. Coe (2015). The Maya (9th edition). Thames & Hudson.

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