Thanks to archeological discoveries, human existence can be traced back to 7 million years ago. During this period, numerous civilizations were formed in different parts of the continents. They grew in size and strength, building cities that exist to date. If you are fascinated by the origin and history of humankind, here is a list of some of the greatest ancient civilizations in history.

1. Mesopotamia

A clay tablet with ancient mathematical symbols.

Many historians consider Mesopotamia to be the birthplace of civilization. The Mesopotamian civilization existed in Syria, Kuwait, and Iraq from 4000 to 3500 BC. This lot is credited with significant advancements in mathematics, astronomy, architecture, agriculture, and law. It’s also in Mesopotamia, where cities like Babylon, Akkad, and Ashur were built.

In Greek, Mesopotamia means “between two rivers,” referring to the Euphrates and Tigris bordering it on both sides. Mesopotamians created the first writing system in history called Cuneiform. They had established government structures ruled by the literates throughout their existence. Their existence wasn’t always smooth, though – they suffered numerous attacks from the Persians and Assyrians.

2. Ancient Egypt

As long as the pyramids stand, Ancient Egypt will always be one of the greatest ancient civilizations. Scientists still can’t explain how Egyptians created these extraordinary structures while relying on 2600 BC technology. Pyramids aside, Ancient Egypt was a very powerful empire that lasted for more than 3000 years.

This civilization was located along the Nile River, from Sudan to Syria. Due to the close proximity to the River Nile, Ancient Egyptians practiced agriculture and were very skilled in medicine. This civilization was exceptionally gifted in mathematics; they were the ones who created the 365-day calendar and 24-hour clock system. Unfortunately, the Ancient Egyptian civilization was destroyed by Alexander the Great, who took advantage of their internal conflicts in 332 BC.

3. Indus Valley Civilization

The Indus Valley civilization bore Hinduism. It was positioned along the basins of the Indus River, which is modern-day India and Pakistan, and existed from 3300 to 1300 BCE. The Indus Valley Civilization had advanced cities such as the Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, which had brick houses and drainage systems. It was a clan of long-distance traders who occasionally traveled to Mesopotamia to exchange goods.

As the birthplace of Hinduism, the Indus Valley Civilization created numerous religious texts. They are also the ones who came up with the concept of reincarnation, which is a widespread belief today. The fall of the Indus Valley civilization started in 1700 BC, and according to Historians, it was not war-instigated as is the case with the other examples in this list. It mostly had to do with changes in river courses and the climate.

4. Ancient China

The Ancient Chinese Civilization succeeded primarily because of its geographical location. It was surrounded by the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, which were water sources that aided their economic activities – they even built a canal between them. On the other side was the Goi Desert, the Himalayan Mountains, and the Pacific Ocean.

To improve security for their civilization, the Ancient Chinese started building the famous Great Wall of China. They were divided into six dynasties: Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, Tang, and Ming. Literary-wise, the Ancient Chinese civilization introduced the abacus, decimal system, sundial, and the printing press. Unlike many civilizations on this list, Ancient China lasted for more than 5,000 years. Their decline resulted from attacks from the Mongol tribes, corruption, and political differences.

5. Ancient Greek

Located in southeast Europe, the Ancient Greek civilization has contributed significantly to modern art, science, philosophy, democracy, science, literature, and much more. It was the home to renowned philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. This civilization introduced the Olympic Games and the famous Greek alphabet.

Even though its reign lasted for a considerable amount of time, the ancient Greek civilization reached its peak from 800 BCE to 323 BCE. It was made up of city-states, such as Athens, which were in constant conflict, something that contributed to its eventual decline, along with financial issues.

6. Ancient Peru

Ancient Peru started the famous Inca Empire, the Moche, Huari, Nazca, Paracas, and Chavin. Of these six, the Inca Empire stood out the most by occupying the area from Colombia to Chile and building the famous city of Machu Picchu.

While the ancient Peru civilization did not come up with any writing language (they communicated using pictures and symbols), it had cities with advanced infrastructure, such as paved roads. Like the Indus Valley civilization, the Peruvian civilization was not wiped out by war. Instead, it came to an end due to the outbreak of diseases such as smallpox that were brought about by the Spaniards.

7. Sumerian Civilization

Historians date the Sumerian civilization to be much older than the Mesopotamian civilization. It existed from 4500 to 4000 BC and was positioned in the exact location of Mesopotamia. The Sumerian civilization comprised multiple city-states, like the Ancient Greek civilization, which resulted in many internal conflicts.

Be that as it may, this civilization lived a comfortable life; they engaged in activities such as pottery, architecture, and art. Unfortunately, the fall of the Sumerian civilization started when the Amorites invaded them. Eventually, the Amorites absorbed the Sumerians, forming the Babylonian empire together.

8. Aztec Empire

Also known as Mexica, the Aztec Empire is believed to be modern-day Mexicans. This civilization lived in Central America from 1325 to 1521. The Aztec Empire was famous for building the Tenochtitlan City, a religious and economic hub. Historians claim that the city of Tenochtitlan had over 200,000 residents by the 16th century, making it one of the biggest cities of that time. One of the temples built by the Aztec empire in Tenochtitlan, The Templo Mayor, still exists and is a famous historic site.



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Last Update: June 12, 2024