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World History Era 2

Early Civilizations and the Emergence of  Pastoral Peoples, 4000-1000 BCE 

Standard 1: The major characteristics of civilization and how civilizations emerged in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus valley 

Standard 2: How agrarian societies spread and new states emerged in the third and second millennia BCE 

Standard 3: The political, social, and cultural consequences of population movements and militarization in Eurasia in the second millennium BCE 

Standard 4: Major trends in Eurasia and Africa from 4000 to 1000 BCE  

When farmers began to grow crops on the irrigated floodplain of Mesopotamia in Southwest Asia, they had no consciousness that they were embarking on a radically new experiment in human organization. The nearly rainless but abundantly watered valley of the lower Tigris and Euphrates rivers was an environment capable of supporting far larger concentrations of population and much greater cultural complexity than could the hill country where agriculture first emerged. Shortly after 4000 BCE, a rich culture and economy based on walled cities was appearing along the banks of the two rivers. The rise of civilization in Mesopotamia marked the beginning of 3,000 years of far-reaching transformations that affected peoples across wide areas of Eurasia and Africa. 

The four standards in this era present a general chronological progression of developments in world history from 4000 to 1000 BCE. Two major patterns of change may be discerned that unite the developments of this period. 

Early Civilizations and the Spread of Agricultural Societies: Societies exhibiting the major characteristics of civilization spread widely during these millennia. Four great floodplain civilizations appeared, first in Mesopotamia, shortly after in the Nile valley, and from about 2500 BCE in the Indus valley. These three civilizations mutually influenced one another and came to constitute a single region of intercommunication and trade. The fourth civilization arose in the Yellow River valley of northwestern China in the second millennium BCE. As agriculture continued to spread, urban centers also emerged on rain-watered lands, notably in Syria and on the island of Crete. Finally, expanding agriculture and long-distance trade were the foundations of increasingly complex societies in the Aegean Sea basin and western Europe. During this same era, it must be remembered, much of the world’s population lived in small farming communities and hunted or foraged. These peoples were no less challenged than city-dwellers to adapt continually and creatively to changing environmental and social conditions.  

Pastoral Peoples and Population Movements: In this era pastoralism--the practice of herding animals as a society’s primary source of food--made it possible for larger communities than ever before to inhabit the semi-arid steppes and deserts of Eurasia and Africa. Consequently, pastoral peoples began play an important role in world history. In the second millennium BCE migrations of pastoral folk emanating from the steppes of Central Asia contributed to a quickening pace of change across the entire region from Europe and the Mediterranean basin to India. Some societies became more highly militarized, new kingdoms appeared, and languages of the Indo-European family became much more widely spoken. 

Why Study This Era? 

  • This is the period when civilizations appeared, shaping all subsequent eras of history. Students must consider the nature of civilization as both a particular way of organizing society and a historical phenomenon subject to transformation and collapse. 
  • In this era many of the world’s most fundamental inventions, discoveries, institutions, and techniques appeared. All subsequent civilizations would be built on these achievements. 

  • Early civilizations were not self-contained but developed their distinctive characteristics partly as a result of interactions with other peoples. In this era students will learn about the deep roots of encounter and exchange among societies. 

  • The era introduces students to one of the most enduring themes in history, the dynamic interplay, for good or ill, between the agrarian civilizations and pastoral peoples of the great grasslands. 

Each standard was developed with historical thinking standards in mind. The relevant historical thinking standards are linked in the brackets, [ ], below. 

Standard 1

The major characteristics of civilization and how civilizations emerged in Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Indus valley.

Standard 1A

The student understands how Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus valley became centers of dense population, urbanization, and cultural innovation in the fourth and third millennia BCE.

GRADE LEVEL THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Analyze how the natural environments of the Tigris-Euphrates, Nile, and Indus valleys shaped the early development of civilization. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas]
5-12 Compare the character of urban development in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus valley, including the emergence of social hierarchies and occupational specializations, as well as differences in the tasks that urban women and men performed. [Compare and contrast differing values and institutions]
5-12 Compare the forms of writing that developed in the three civilizations and how written records shaped political, legal, religious, and cultural life. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas, values, and institutions]
7-12 Compare the development of religious and ethical belief systems in the three civilizations and how they legitimized the political and social order. [Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas]
9-12 Analyze the character of government and military institutions in Egypt and Mesopotamia and ways in which central authorities commanded the labor services and tax payments of peasant farmers. [Consider multiple perspectives]
9-12 Describe architectural, artistic, literary, technological, and scientific achievements of these civilizations and relate these achievements to economic and social life. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]

Standard 1B

The student understands how commercial and cultural interactions contributed to change in the Tigris-Euphrates, Indus, and Nile regions. 

GRADE LEVEL THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Analyze the importance of trade in Mesopotamian civilization of the fourth and third millennia and describe the networks of commercial exchange that connected various regions of Southwest Asia. [Interrogate historical data
5-12 Assess the importance of commercial, cultural, and political connections between Egypt and peoples of Nubia along the upper Nile. [Identify issues and problems in the past]
7-12 Trace the network of trade routes connecting Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus valley in the third millennium and assess the economic and cultural significance of those commercial connections. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]

Standard 2

How agrarian societies spread and new states emerged in the third and second millennia BCE.

Standard 2A 

The student understands how civilization emerged in northern China in the second millennium BCE.

GRADE LEVEL THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Explain the fundamentals of bronze-making technology and assess the uses and significance of bronze tools, weapons, and luxury goods in the third and second millennia BCE. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships
5-12 Compare the climate and geography of the Huang He (Yellow River) valley with the natural environments of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus valley. [Clarify information on the geographic setting
9-12 Describe royal government under the Shang Dynasty and the development of social hierarchy, religious institutions, and writing. [Appreciate historical perspectives]
5-12 Infer from archaeological or written evidence the character of early Chinese urban societies and compare these centers with cities of Mesopotamia or the Indus valley. [Formulate historical questions]
9-12 Assess the part that Chinese peasants played in sustaining the wealth and power of the Shang political centers. [Consider multiple perspectives

Standard 2B 

The student understands how new centers of agrarian society arose in the third and second millennia BCE.

GRADE LEVEL THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Describe the relationship between the development of plow technology and the emergence of new agrarian societies in Southwest Asia, the Mediterranean basin, and temperate Europe. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships
7-12 Analyze how an urban civilization emerged on Crete and evaluate its cultural achievements. [Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances]
9-12 Explain the development of commercial communities in such Mediterranean cities as Byblos and Ugarit and analyze the cultural significance of expanding commercial exchange among peoples of Southwest Asia, Egypt, and the Aegean Sea. [Reconstruct patterns of historical succession and duration
5-12 Infer from the evidence of megalithic stone building at Stonehenge and other centers the emergence of complex agrarian societies in temperate Europe. [Draw upon visual sources]
9-12 Analyze evidence for the growth of agricultural societies in tropical West Africa and Southeast Asia in the second millennium BCE. [Interrogate historical data]

Standard 3

The political, social, and cultural consequences of population movements and militarization in Eurasia in the second millennium BCE.

Standard 3A 

The student understands how population movements from western and Central Asia affected peoples of India, Southwest Asia, and the Mediterranean region. 

GRADE LEVEL THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Define pastoralism as a specialized way of life and explain how the climate and geography of Central Asia were linked to the rise of pastoral societies on the steppes. [Analyze multiple causation]
7-12 Identify the probable geographic homeland of speakers of early Indo-European languages and trace the spread of Indo-European languages from north of the Black and Caspian seas to other parts of Eurasia. [Reconstruct patterns of historical succession and duration
5-12 Explain the concept of kinship as the basis of social organization among pastoral peoples and compare the structure of kinship-based societies with that of agrarian states. [Compare and contrast differing behaviors and institutions]
9-12 Describe major characteristics of economy, social relations, and political authority among pastoral peoples and analyze why women tended to experience greater social equality with men in pastoral communities than in agrarian societies of Eurasia. [Identify issues and problems in the past

Standard 3B 

The student understands the social and cultural effects that militarization and the emergence of new kingdoms had on peoples of Southwest Asia and Egypt in the second millennium BCE. 

GRADE LEVEL THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Analyze ways in which chariot transport and warfare affected Southwest Asian societies. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
7-12 Analyze the origins of the Hittite people and their empire in Anatolia and assess Hittite political and cultural achievements. [Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances
7-12 Describe the spread of Egyptian power into Nubia and Southwest Asia under the New Kingdom and assess the factors that made Egyptian expansion possible. [Analyze multiple causation
9-12 Explain the religious ideas of Akhenaton (Amenhotep IV) and assess the viewpoint that Atonism was an early form of monotheism. [Interrogate historical data]

Standard 3C 

The student understands how urban society expanded in the Aegean region in the era of Mycenaean dominance. 

GRADE LEVEL THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
5-12 Describe the political and social organization of the Mycenaean Greeks as revealed in the archaeological and written record. [Interrogate historical data]
7-12 Assess the cultural influences of Egypt, Minoan Crete, and Southwest Asian civilizations on the Mycenaeans. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]  
9-12 Analyze the impact of Mycenaean expansion and city-building on commerce and political life in the eastern Mediterranean. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]

Standard 3D 

The student understands the development of new cultural patterns in northern India in the second millennium BCE. 

GRADE LEVEL THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
7-12 Infer from geographical and archaeological information why Indo-Aryan-speaking groups moved from Central Asia into India beginning in the second millennium. [Draw upon visual sources]
5-12 Analyze possible causes of the decline and collapse of Indus valley civilization. [Hypothesize the influence of the past] 
9-12 Assess the early political, social, and cultural impact of Indo-Aryan movements on peoples of North India. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]

Standard 4

Major trends in Eurasia and Africa from 4000 to 1000 BCE. 

Standard 4A

The student understands major trends in Eurasia and Africa from 4000 to 1000 BCE. 

GRADE LEVEL THEREFORE, THE STUDENT IS ABLE TO
7-12 Explain the various criteria that have been used to define “civilization” and the fundamental differences between civilizations and other forms of social organization, notably hunter-gatherer bands, Neolithic agricultural societies, and pastoral nomadic societies. [Consider multiple perspectives]
5-12 Identify areas of Eurasia and Africa where cities and dense farming populations appeared between 4000 and 1000 BCE and analyze connections between the spread of agriculture and the acceleration of world population growth. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
7-12 Compare conditions under which civilizations developed in Southwest Asia, the Nile valley, India, China, and the Eastern Mediterranean and analyze ways in which the emergence of civilizations represented a decisive transformation in human history. [Draw comparisons across eras and regions]
7-12 Explain why geographic, environmental and economic conditions favored hunter-gatherer, pastoral, and small-scale agricultural ways of life rather than urban civilization in many parts of the world. [Utilize mathematical and quantitative data]
7-12 Describe fundamental inventions, discoveries, techniques, and institutions that appeared during this period and assess the significance of bronze technology for economic, cultural, and political life. [Interrogate historical data]
 9-12 Analyze connections between the cultural achievements of early civilizations and the development of state authority, aristocratic power, taxation systems, and institutions of coerced labor, including slavery. [Analyze cause-and-effect relationships]
 5-12 Describe how new ideas, products, techniques, and institutions spread from one region to another and analyze conditions under which peoples assimilated or rejected new things or adapted them to prevailing cultural traditions. [Analyze the importance of ideas]
 7-12 Define “patriarchal society” and analyze ways in which the legal and customary position of aristocratic, urban, or peasant women may have changed in early civilizations. [Employ quantitative analyses]
 9-12 Analyze the role of pastoral peoples in the history of Eurasia and Africa up to 1000 BCE and explain why relations between herding and agrarian societies tended to involve both conflict and mutual dependence. [Draw comparisons across eras and regions]
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