8 of the Oldest Civilisations in the World

Updated On: November 08, 2023

8 of the Oldest Civilisations in the World

What are the oldest civilisations on record? Throughout the millennia, numerous civilisations have risen and fallen. Throughout time, humans started to learn to live in groups sharing the same ideologies and objectives in small isolated groups, and then larger communities began to form. Early man spent thousands of years developing agriculture, weaponry, art, social structure, and politics, laying the groundwork for what would eventually become a human civilisation.

Mesopotamia is the site of the world’s first urban civilisation. However, many earlier peoples also created sophisticated communities and cultures that can be categorised as civilisations. Around 4000 BC, the first stage of the Sumerian culture appeared in the Mesopotamia region, modern-day Iraq. They developed in the fields of culture and technology, which still exist.

This article discusses civilisations we can verify actually existed, unlike legendary ones. Let’s explore the world’s eight oldest cultures:

Magnificient Oldest Civilisations 

We’ll start with the most ancient civilisation, Mesopotamia, a prosperous and advanced ancient civilisation. Then comes the Ancient Egyptian civilisation on the banks of the River Nile. Maya Civilization and the Chinese Civilisation are also among the oldest civilisations in the world that come on our list. 

The Mesopotamian Civilisation

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It is the world’s oldest civilisation in modern-day Iraq, between 6500 and 539 BCE in ancient Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia refers to the region between two rivers. The concept of agriculture was invented, and people gradually began to domesticate animals for food and to help with farming and food. Mesopotamian culture’s astronomy, mathematics, and literary accomplishments are well known.

The Sumerians laid the foundation for this literate urban civilisation. They were the first to establish trade and businesses like pottery, weaving, and leather-working. They also introduced metalworking and construction. The Sumerians may have introduced religion by establishing priestly ranks committed to the ritual worship of particular deities. They did this by erecting ziggurats, or towering temples, across their towns. The invention of the cuneiform writing system around 3200 BCE is the most well-known Mesopotamian development.

The first language spoken in the Mesopotamian civilisation was Sumerian. One of the most significant accomplishments of ancient Mesopotamia was the development of the wheel, approximately 3,500 BCE, to make pottery rather than for transportation. The Akkadian civilisation eventually took the place of the Mesopotamian civilisation.

The Ancient Egyptian Civilisation

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One of the oldest and most culturally diverse civilisations, ancient Egypt was founded in approximately 3,150 BCE. For more than 3,000 years, it has been one of the most powerful empires in history. It grew up alongside the River Nile. It is in Egypt as we know it today. King Menas founded a capital city at White Walls, Memphis, upon uniting Upper and Lower Egypt. It is renowned for its unique culture and pharaohs.

Egyptian civilisation is made up of three stages:

  • The Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age 
  • The Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age
  • The New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age 

Between each stage, there were also transitional times that had volatility. The New Kingdom represents the apex of ancient Egypt. They also made several political, social, and cultural advances. They invented building techniques to construct enormous structures like temples and pyramids. The latter has withstood the test of time and continues to be one of the world’s seven wonders. In addition, they established excellent techniques for sculpting and painting and showed exceptional skill in medicine and agriculture.

Ancient Egyptians introduced a mathematics system, a practical medicine system and irrigation systems. They also developed the first wood plank boats known to history and glass technology. As for literature, they also had their share by introducing new literary genres. 

They established the 356-day calendar and the 24-hour day. They possessed a unique writing system they used under specific conditions called hieroglyphics. However, writers used reduced forms of hieroglyphics called hieratic and demotic. Alexander the Great’s conquest of the civilisation in 332 BC marked the end of it.

Maya Civilisation

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The Maya Civilisation existed in today’s Yucatan, Southern Mexico, from 2600 BC to 900 AD. Fertile farmland helped to develop agriculture. 

They produced cotton, corn, beans, avocado, vanilla, squash, and peppers. A staggering population of almost 19 million people marked the civilisation’s apex of wealth at the time. Additionally, they spread exquisite handicrafts, including ornate pottery, stone structures, and turquoise jewellery. They were also very skilled in astronomy, mathematics, and hieroglyphics.

The uniqueness of civilisation is shown in the development of the solar calendar using their etched writing system. The Mayan civilisation believed that the world was established on 11 August, 3114 BC, the first day of their calendar. Additionally, many anticipated that the world would end on 21 December 2012. Sometime between the middle of the eighth and ninth centuries, civilisation fell. The causes of the collapse of the Mayan civilisation remain a mystery.

The Chinese Civilisation

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Since they were surrounded by the Himalayan Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and the Gobi Desert, the ancient Chinese civilisations thrived for generations without interference from invaders or other foreigners. Chinese civilisation started with the Yellow River civilisation, which existed between 1600 BC and 1046 BC. It began with the Xia dynasty in 2070 B.C., followed by Shang and Zhou, and finally, the Qin dynasty.

The ancient Chinese established extensive infrastructure. They built the Grand Canal in the fifth century, which connects the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. The canal made it easier for supplies and military equipment to go across the region. 

The development of silk and paper made this civilisation particularly well-known. The compass, printing, alcohol, cannons, and many more inventions were also introduced by the Chinese. With the Xinhai Revolution in 1912 A.D., the Qing dynasty’s rule over China came to an end.

The Indus Valley Civilization

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The Indus Valley Civilisation also referred to as the Harappan Civilization, is thought to have existed in what is now northwest India and Pakistan. It extended to 1.25 kilometres, reflecting the spread of the Indus Valley Civilization. It was also referred to as the Harappan Civilisation after the Harappa excavation site.

The Harappans created advanced drainage systems, a grid structure, water supply systems, and city planning, all of which aided in the expansion of cities. The civilisation is believed to be reached its peak between 2600 BC to around 1900 B.C. The migration brought on by climate change as the Saraswati River dried up marked the end of the Harappan civilisation.

The Ancient Greek Civilisation

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One of the most significant civilisations in history is the ancient Greek culture. It spread to parts of Italy, Sicily, North Africa, and the extreme west of France. According to burials discovered in the Franchthi Cave near Argolid, Greece, it dates to roughly 7250 BC. 

The civilisation was separated into various phases because it persisted for a long time. The Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic eras are the most well-known historical periods. The Greek civilisation introduced the Senate and the idea of democracy. The Greeks also created the ancient Olympics. They made the framework for contemporary physics, biology, and geometry.

The Persian Civilisation

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From roughly 559 BCE until 331 BCE, the Persian Empire, commonly known as the Achaemenid Empire, existed. From Egypt in the west to Turkey in the north and via Mesopotamia to the Indus River in the east, The Persians conquered regions that measured more than two million square kilometres. It is located in Iran in the present day. Cyrus II founded the Persian Empire and was kind to the kingdoms and towns he captured.

The Persian kings created a system for running a large kingdom. The Persians split their empire into 20 provinces, each with a governor in charge. They made the framework for a postal or courier system. A monotheistic, or faith in one deity, religion was also developed by the Persians.

Under the rule of Xerxes, the son of Darius, the Persian Empire started to crumble. He destroyed the royal money by attempting to conquer Greece in vain and then continuing to spend carelessly after returning home. 

The aspirations of the Persians to expand their kingdom were crushed when Alexander the Great came to power in 331 B.C.E. He was the best military commander when he was just in his early twenties. He overthrew the Persian Empire and swept over antiquity.

The Roman Civilisation

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The early Roman civilisation emerged in the centuries following 800 BCE. The ancient Romans established one of the biggest empires in global history. At its peak, the empire expanded from a small town to one that included most of continental Europe, Britain, a large portion of western Asia, northern Africa, and the Mediterranean islands. Consequently, Rome had close contact with the Greeks. From that point forward, Greek influence would play a more significant role in Roman life.

The Period of Kings, which began with the founding of Rome and ended in 510 BC, is the first era in Roman history. The people took charge of their city and established their government after just seven kings had reigned. The higher classes—the senators and the knights—ruled under the new system of government, the Senate. Rome became known as the Roman Republic from this point on. 

Julius Caesar, who ascended to power in 60 B.C., was one of the most well-known kings of Rome. Octavius, who succeeded Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., co-ruled with Mark Antony. After Mark Antony’s death, Octavian became Rome’s supreme ruler. Octavian has subsequently crowned Rome’s first emperor.

Rome’s first emperor rose to power in 31 B.C. The Roman Empire continued to exist until its collapse in 476 AD. Some of the most potent emperors in human history also rose and fell in Rome. The Roman Empire was divided in AD 286 into two separate empires, the eastern and the western, headed by a different emperor. The western Roman Empire collapsed in AD 476. At the same time, The Eastern Roman Empire fell when Turks seized control over its capital city, Constantinople) in AD 1453.

Roman engineering and architectural advancements continue to influence modern society. The Romans were undoubtedly expert engineers. 

It is evident in their highways, which extended hundreds of kilometres over diverse topography and were crucial in connecting the empire. 

The arch is a brand-new innovation in Roman architecture that showcases the ability of Roman engineers to handle heavier loads. One obvious illustration of the distinctive Roman architecture is the arched design of the vast Roman aqueducts. Roman aqueducts, initially created in 312 B.C., allowed towns to grow because they transported water to urban areas.

Latin is the language used to write Roman literature. Roman authors transformed Latin into a fantastic literary language which later centuries greatly appreciated and aspired to imitate. The fact that busy politicians created so much Latin writing is one of its exceptional characteristics. They blended writing and politics.

Without the earliest civilisations that appeared after human evolution, there’d be no modern-day civilisation. Civilisation has undergone various phases of development, from hunting to today’s societies and communities. Each civilisation has its share, whether through inventions, lifestyles or cultures. 

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