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The Oldest Known Civilizations In The World

Updated September 23, 2021 28.7k views14 items

Humans have been around for around 350,000 years, but it has only been a short time since they began to group together in what we call civilizations. In all of our history on this planet, humans have only civilized themselves for approximately 10,000 years thanks to the development of agriculture, animal husbandry, and eventually writing.

Of the thousands of civilizations that have existed, most have disappeared. Few have remained in the same place they originated such as the Chinese or Egyptians, while most have died out. Many ancient civilizations existed throughout human history, but some lasted longer than you might believe. The oldest known civilizations in the world may not be around any longer, but they stuck around long enough to give the world the wheel, government, religion, and everything else humans developed over the past 10,000 years.

  • Harappan Civilization

    The Harappan Civilization, also known as the Indus Valley Civilization, was a Bronze Age civilization that stood from 2200 to 1900 BCE. It was one of the three early cradles of civilization found in South Asia. The civilization rose during a period of aridification, which gradually reduced the amount of potable water used in agriculture and consumption. While this likely caused the Harappan Civilization to come to an end, people remained in the area where they eventually settled what would become Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

    Area: The Indus River basin
    Modern area: Northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest India
    Period: 3300 to 1900 BCE

  • Ancient Egyptian Civilization

    The Early Dynastic Period of Ancient Egypt existed from 3100 to 2686 BCE following the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. It lasted until the period known as the Old Kingdom rose in 2686 BCE. Originally, the capitol city stood at Thinis, but was eventually moved to Memphis. While the Pyramids were not constructed until shortly after the Early Dynastic Period came to an end, there were many innovations made in art, religion, and architecture, which helped shape the Egyptian culture that would develop following the period.

    Area: Northern bank of the Nile River
    Modern area: Egypt
    Period: 3100 to 2686 BCE

  • Ancient Greek Civilization

    The Greek islands have been settled for thousands of years, but the civilization known as the Ancient Greeks existed between the 27th and 15th Centuries, BCE. Ancient Greece is known for giving the world the concepts of democracy, theater, marble statuary, and many more cultural distinctions than can be counted. Greek Civilization helped to establish those that followed including Alexander the Great's Macedonian Empire (which consisted of people speaking Greek) to the early Romans, and finally, the Byzantine Empire, which was an extension of Rome greatly influenced by Greek culture (they spoke Greek too).

    Area: North Africa, Italy, Sicily, and much of Europe leading into France
    Modern area: Greece
    Period: 2700 to 1500 BCE

  • Maya Civilization

    The Maya Civilization was a Mesoamerican Civilization best known for being the only South American civilization to have created a fully-developed system of writing. It is also well known for its unique architecture including the stepped pyramids, or ziggurats, including the one pictured called El Castillo at Chichen Itza. The Maya existed for 3,500 years as a fully-developed civilization, but ultimately succumbed to the Spanish Empire's colonization of South America. The last Maya city, Nojpetén, fell in 1697, nearly 800 years after the Civilization mostly died out following a widespread political collapse.

    Area: The Yucatan area of South America
    Modern area: Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas in Mexico and southward through Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras
    Period: 2600 BCE to 900 CE