1. Stone Age (2.5 million to 7000 B.C.)
The Stone Age occupies 99% of the entire chronology of human civilization. It began 2.5 million years ago, when some hominid figured out how to use stones for everyday needs. There were still several competing Homo species on earth at that time. Art in the form of cave paintings and musical instruments, as well as religion in the form of rituals and ceremonies, was born in the Stone Age. Community hierarchy and social stratification appeared; people learned to cultivate the land, build dwellings, and even the first permanent settlements.
Paleolithic marked the separation of man from the animal state, the emergence of the primitive communal system. It took us more than a million years to evolve from Homo habilis into Homo erectus, which used not just stones, but stone axes and other more complex tools. It took about a million more years to evolve to anatomically modern humans, to Homo sapiens.
Apart from us, another group of Homo stands out in the Paleolithic, the Neanderthals, who for a long time were considered our primitive ancestors. Today, however, scientific research unequivocally argues that we are two different species, which, of course, contacted, exchanged culture, tools, and even conflicted. Numerous sites of Neanderthals and sapiens have been excavated, where the bones of the other species were found. The first known military conflict in human history took place 14,340 years ago. The archaeological site Cemetery 117, excavated in Egypt, contained the remains of 59 people, most of whom were killed with spears.
The Neolithic, or New Stone Age, was a transition from stone tools to metal ones. Around the seventh millennium BC, the Neolithic revolution took place, and the first large and permanent human settlements appeared, such as Jericho and Chatal-Guyuk. Farming supplanted hunting and gathering because it was a much more reliable and, most importantly, permanent source of food. Man invented the sickle for harvesting and other tools for working the land, resulting in a dramatic increase in the numbers of the species. Since a tool was no longer just a stone, but a real tool that required knowledge and time to make, the notion of ownership emerged. Naturally, a social hierarchy arose as well. This, in turn, gave rise to new forms of cooperation – it became possible to attract large groups of people to work.
In the 4th-3rd millennium BC, megalithic structures like Stonehenge were erected, pottery developed, and the first civilizations emerged in the “Fertile Crescent” zone.
The most obvious demonstration of Neolithic life is the well-preserved settlement of Skara Bray. There, in addition to the remains of houses, stone beds, shelves and separate rooms for toilets were found.
2. The Bronze Age (3500-1300 BC)
The Bronze Age begins in the fourth millennium BC with the formation of metallurgical provinces—for convenience we can imagine them as prototypes of states. These are vast provinces where people began to mine bronze and began to make tools, weapons and other products characteristic of each province. Where exactly and who exactly was the first to mine bronze is unknown, but it happened independently of each other in different places of the planet. The earliest bronze items found in Iraq and Iran date back to the 4th millennium B.C. The St. Petersburg Museum of Ethnography houses the Maikop slab, a find from excavations in Adygea (Russia).
As the finds from Iraq and Iran, the Maikop slab claims to be the oldest bronze item. In addition, the slab contains elements of undeciphered hieroglyphic writing.
Bronze gradually began to supplant stone wherever possible. More detailed bronze works of art and more efficient tools appeared. It became possible to smelt pottery, ritual adornments and elements for armor. Bronze spearheads and axes allowed those with the technology to quickly take over lagging territories. Native Europeans, for example, were displaced by Indo-European tribes.
The Celts are the last indigenous European culture to survive, but they too have been greatly modified by thousands of years of influence from other cultures.
Having put the production of weapons on an assembly line, in 3,500-3,000 B.C. people created the first real civilizations, such as the Minoan, Sumerian, Egyptian, Chinese, and Indian. Which one was the first – an open question, because the criteria are not quite clear, in addition it is not always possible to establish the exact chronology or age of finds. At the moment, most historians agree on Sumer. However, there are serious arguments in favor of Egypt and even the Indus.
As strange as it may sound, the most important thing that appears in the Bronze Age is writing. First, as a way to keep records of everyday life, then to transmit and store large amounts of information. The first sets of laws appeared.
The Code of Hammurabi, created under King Hammurabi in the 1750s B.C., is one of the oldest legal monuments in the world.
Finally some names, descriptions of events and other documented data began to reach us. Thanks to writing, we know that Gilgamesh lived in the seventeenth century BC. He was a hero throughout the ancient world – an adventurer, a brave man, a man who longed for glory and immortality. The poem “Gilgamesh and Agga” tells about the events that took place more than five thousand years ago. About how Gilgamesh became ruler of the city of Uruk, how he fought back against the army of the city of Kish. His deeds may have precipitated the creation of the first Sumerian civilization. Or maybe not. It is possible and even more likely that the poem describes the characters and events in a biased way, but who cares about that now? In any case, the name of Gilgamesh will remain forever in history precisely because of the writing.
As a result of social stratification, cities and states began to accumulate large reserves of resources: first, simply human, in the form of labor, and at its expense, everyone else. The accumulated resources and stored knowledge made it possible to build palaces, temples, and other majestic structures that have become archaeological monuments. Thanks largely to them, we now have an idea of our own history. The Bronze Age built the pyramid of Cheops in Egypt, the ziggurat of Etemenanki in Babylon, and the temple of Artemis in Ephesus.
3. The Iron Age (1300 B.C. – 340 A.D.)
The Iron Age can be divided into three parts: a prologue in the form of the Bronze Age collapse, the iron “Dark Ages” and the iron Renaissance, which for convenience we shall call Antiquity.
The Bronze Age catastrophe is one of the major mysteries of world history. As a result of a series of events during the fifteenth and twelfth centuries B.C., most Bronze Age civilizations collapsed; some of them never recovered. A volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea had catastrophic consequences. The tsunami struck the island of Crete, virtually destroying the most advanced civilization of the region. Perhaps it was the demise of the Minoan civilization that gave rise to the myth of Atlantis. From somewhere came the “peoples of the sea” and destroyed the Hittite kingdom, which actually competed with Egypt. In turn, Egypt, too, split into two parts – this is de jure. And in fact – into many appanage principalities. Since then, it no longer played a dominant role in the world or even in the region.
The mass migration of peoples, caused by the drought, was accompanied by raids and the severing of trade ties between cities and countries. Once great Babylon was sacked and destroyed, Assyria no longer controlled its territories outside the city walls. As trade stopped, so did the long sea voyages. This, in turn, slowed down the development of all the sciences. The scale of the Bronze Age disaster surpassed even the fall of the Roman Empire. Most of the civilized world plunged into the iron Dark Ages for hundreds of years.
The advantage of iron over bronze is actually not obvious. Firstly, iron tools and weapons are prone to corrosion; secondly, it is much more difficult to mine and work iron. At first, iron was several times more expensive than gold; it was considered a luxury, suitable for a noble gift. The Hittite king Anitta wrote:
When I marched on the city of Puruskhanda, a man from the city of Puruskhanda came to me to worship, and he presented me one iron throne and one iron scepter as a sign of obedience.
The emphasis is on the material – iron. An iron dagger of Hittite manufacture was found in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. In the middle of the twelfth century B.C., Hittite king Hattussili III sent a letter to Assyrian king Salmansar I, from which it became known that the Hittites had indeed mastered the technology of mining and smelting iron, but wanted to keep it a secret.
Iron has a major practical advantage over bronze: it is much stronger when properly processed. This means that iron tools can be used to cultivate previously inaccessible forest areas. Thus, Western Europe was pretty quickly deprived of forests. But iron also had an impact on regions that had converted to farming earlier. The irrigation system improved – in particular, the waterwheel was invented, which, in turn, led to more productive crop fields, which meant more people. They quickly figured out that, in addition to previously inaccessible forest areas, they could also “cultivate” previously inaccessible neighbors with iron weapons. Numerous professional armies emerged, the very approach to warfare changed, and the world was immersed in incessant regional conflicts for several centuries, out of which new civilizational centers were born.
A Brief History of the Fertile Crescent
4. Antiquity (776 B.C. – 565 A.D.)
One way or another, by the VIII-VII centuries B.C. iron was spreading and gradually displacing bronze, which was now more frequently used for jewelry, art and everyday objects. During this period new regional leaders emerge on the scene. Athens creates a confederation of city-states. The Achaemenid Empire emerges, which soon goes to war with Greece. The Battle of Thermopylae takes place. Carthage becomes the dominant maritime power of the region, while on the other side of the Mediterranean, Rome emerges – at that time as a small kingdom.
Antiquity is primarily Ancient Greece and, of course, Rome with their architectural, cultural and scientific achievements. The Colossus of Rhodes and the Colosseum were built, stunning sculptures were created, poetry and painting developed. Antiquity includes Alexander the Great and Octavian Augustus, King Leonidas and Gaius Julius Caesar, Plato and Cicero. The scientists of Antiquity determine the shape of the Earth, which would later play an important role in the era of the Great Geographic Discoveries. During this period, many sciences are born, including history itself, whose “father” is considered Herodotus. People begin to ask philosophical questions, trying to understand who they are and what they exist for.
However, science and poetry – this is, of course, great, but no one has forgotten the craft of war. The professional army is becoming not only the main social elevator, but also simply a worthy occupation. Only in the service can a man from nothing become everything, can see the vast world, visit countries others have never even heard of. The Roman legions, setting foot on the shores of Britain, believed that they were on the very edge of the world, in lands where mythological monsters lived. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall, which 1,800 years later became the prototype of the ice wall from Game of Thrones. They methodically defeated all their neighbors and incorporated the entire favorable Mediterranean region into the empire.
Gladius is a Roman sword that conquered half the world.
It is accepted by most historians that Antiquity ends with the fall of the Western Roman Empire. After that, however, the region would be dominated by the East for another century and a half. Moreover, by the middle of the sixth century A.D. Byzantium would gather back almost all the territories of the former Roman Empire. Therefore, the end point of Antiquity can be considered the death of Justinian I – Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire – in 565 AD. After him, a fragment of the Roman Empire in the person of Byzantium will become steadily shrinking – both geographically and politically. Soon Europe would plunge back into the Dark Ages. For a full 600 years.
5. The Dark Ages (565-1200)
The Dark Ages occurred in different parts of the world at different times. For example, in China the era of the Sixteen Barbarian States corresponds to our understanding of the Dark Ages. But it happened several centuries earlier than in Europe. The previously mentioned Assyria and Babylon ceased to exist after the Bronze Age collapse, which happened long before our era. The Arab world, on the contrary, faced the Dark Ages much later and is still partly in them today.
If we return to Europe, the darkest and most straightforward centuries come first in the former Roman province of Britain. The local nobility and population loyal to Rome fled to the mainland as they began to be rapidly slaughtered. Hadrian’s ramparts were by then long abandoned, and there was not a single Roman cohort on the entire island. Very quickly the land of Britain was literally torn to shreds – dozens of state formations like Wessex, Essex, Kent, Wales and others emerged. They were constantly at enmity with each other, forming alliances, breaking up, disappearing from the map and reappearing. In each of these states some king or at least a king sat. In fact, he only ruled where he could personally go with his troops.
For several centuries coinage ceased completely in Britain as people returned to natural exchange. Christianity, gaining in popularity on the mainland, was completely superseded by local paganism. Naturally, all science, military craftsmanship and the legal system fell into disrepair. And as if this were not enough – from somewhere from the north came strange people. At first they raided in small groups, but soon there were more of them – and now they had their own settlements, and soon their own states, living according to Scandinavian orders.
On the continent, meanwhile, things were not much better. The infrastructure of the Roman Empire gradually fell into disrepair, aqueducts and roads were no longer repaired. Trade links were again severed, and as a consequence many cities were abandoned. The population of Rome fell from nearly a million people to a few tens of thousands, and the Colosseum was ploughed up as a vegetable garden. Europe stopped getting grain from Egypt and North Africa; famine broke out in some regions. In addition, the Justinian plague continued to run rampant. Knowledge accumulated over thousands of years was lost and replaced by “encyclopedias” in which the flat Earth was inhabited by all kinds of basilisks and dragons.
Imagine a vast region, almost an entire continent, whose population is in an apocalyptic mood. Several centuries of constant wars, epidemics, and famine have led people not only to believe in the end of the world, but to long for it. The more interesting date looms: the thousandth year of the Nativity. All this translates into the Crusades of 1096-1272, aimed primarily at the “liberation” of Jerusalem. The Crusader army is a steady stream of people who independently come from all corners of Europe. About a third of this “army” dies on the way, not even reaching Constantinople; an equal number more die on the way to Jerusalem.
The “Dark Ages” ends, oddly enough, with the final extinction of Byzantium. To be fair to mention that Constantinople itself is still a couple of centuries, but of the once great empire to the beginning of the XIII century is nothing left. Its wealth and, most importantly, knowledge in the form of magnificent libraries and works of art will be exported to Europe.
6. The Renaissance (1300-1600)
Once again we come to two periods that run partly in the same time. These are the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. We still keep in mind, however, that we are talking mostly about Europe. Although the Chinese navigators also left a bright mark, but more on that later.
Early 14th century, the black death or bubonic plague is spreading across Europe, Jerusalem is taken by the Muslims, Byzantium is left as a fragment, but national states begin to appear. The first of them is Portugal, but the process of national self-identification is going on everywhere. Roughly speaking, in the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, the French become French, the English become English, the Spanish become Spanish. The Renaissance begins in Florence, where the cultural heritage of the Roman Empire and Byzantium is flocked. For the first time in a long time, a square is built in the center of the city for meetings and public performances. People once again begin to settle disputes with dialogue in such squares rather than with axes in back alleys. Florence becomes a real republic, which means that a large part of the population takes part in the political life of the country. In addition, slavery or serfdom is completely abolished. Courts begin to work, and they judge everyone, regardless of social status. Of course, the commoner and the representative of the nobility are tried differently, but they are tried for the same crimes – this, for a moment, is the beginning of the 1,300s.
Universities independent of the church gradually appeared in major European cities. Accordingly, science is developing again, for example the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore finally gets its dome. The cathedral was enormous for its time, and for almost a hundred years it stood uncovered. No one knew how to build such a large dome without it falling apart. However, the main thing that happens during the Renaissance is a change in attitudes toward man. The ideas of humanism become popular, and it can be said that it is from this moment that Europe begins to transform itself into what we know it to be today.
An example of high Renaissance art is Michelangelo’s Pieta. Simple human feelings, such as a mother’s love and sorrow, are brought to the forefront.
By the beginning of the sixteenth century, France and England were gaining their usual borders, and the Ottoman Empire was expanding to its maximum size. In Spain, the Reconquista ends and the Age of Discovery begins.
7. The era of the Great Geographic Discoveries (1500-1700).
On June 7, 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed – an agreement between Spain and Portugal on the division of spheres of influence in the world. Simply put, the maritime powers divided the world in two: everything west of the European continent was claimed by Spain; the east was the sphere of influence of Portugal. This treaty was necessary to avoid a major war between the nascent empires, the first real masters of the seas. On the one hand was India, rich in spices, gold and textiles, far to the east. On the other, to the west was the newly discovered America, which at the time was unknown.
The Renaissance period flowed smoothly into the Great Geographic Discoveries, and those, in turn, into the colonial period of Europe’s absolute domination. Imagine the scale: virtually all of South and Central America belonged to Spain; Portugal, lacking sufficient human resources, built a point empire in the waters of the world’s oceans. It simply began to control the main trade routes, while snatching up the whole of Brazil and large chunks of Africa. By this point, the Arab world, which had given Europe a compass and reminded it how to navigate by the stars, was beginning to decline. In the colonial era, entire civilizations – the Aztecs, the Incas, and the already very difficult Mayans – are destroyed.
Dimensions of a Spanish caravel and a 15th-century Chinese junk
Soon Great Britain joined the race for a place in the sun – and succeeded in this field. In 1607, Virginia, the first English colony in North America, appears. By the end of the 18th century, most of India and Australia are part of the British Empire. The sun never sets over Britain again. This means that the empire spread out so widely that it could be night in one part of the empire, but still be day in another.
8. The Long Nineteenth Century (1789-1914)
The term “Long Nineteenth Century” refers to the period of time during which the world was dominated by empires. Primarily the British and the Russian empires. Their confrontation was called the “Great Game,” which would end only when all were dead. A new state emerged in North America, the United States, which would one day become the dominant world power. The long nineteenth century lasted 125 years. It went beyond the nineteenth century: it began a little earlier and ended a little later.
The French Revolution and the Long Nineteenth Century began with the capture of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. Under the slogan “Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!” the monarchy was deposed, and Queen Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI went to the guillotine. In general, the whole period passed under similar slogans – communist ideas came into vogue. After the revolution, France was declared a republic, but soon there was another coup d’état. Napoleon Bonaparte found himself at the head of state, and the young republic, albeit briefly, turned into an empire.
The Napoleonic Wars themselves are sometimes referred to as World War Zero because of the impact they had on much of the world.
The Holy Roman Empire finally ceased to exist, and wars of liberation began in the South American colonies and in Africa.
The nineteenth century saw the Industrial Revolution, which changed the world as much as the Neolithic Revolution had once done. Human civilization moved from an agrarian society and manual labor to an industrial society with factories and plants. Gunpowder and coal began to rule the world, cementing capitalism as the dominant world economic system. As coal and metals were now consumed in enormous quantities, the need for the means to transport them also arose. The development of steam engines made it possible to build the first steam engine in 1804. Soon a network of railroads spread all over Europe and became the main transportation artery. Along with industrial goods, people also became mobile. A journey that had recently taken weeks could now be covered in a couple of days or even a few hours.
A steam locomotive (“Rocket”) built in 1829, which became the main locomotive of one of the first public roads between Manchester and Liverpool.
Now we need to remember the bronze collapse that occurred in the XV-XII centuries BC. In that era, people had forgotten how to determine longitude, and it was only in the 19th century A.D. that a cheap way of determining coordinates finally reappeared. Together with the general increased mobility of mankind and technological development, this helped to eliminate all the “white spots” of the planet. Only in the 19th century did the idea of universal compulsory education appear, and all sciences began to develop rapidly, especially medicine. The decline in infant mortality triggered an unprecedented population growth, and in just one century the total number of people on the planet doubled (from one to two billion). As a result, most of civilization abandoned slavery, because there were many people who were ready to work voluntarily for a very modest fee. And it was even cheaper than procuring, transporting and maintaining a slave force.
From the outside, everything looked great: the largest empires divided the world into spheres of influence; civil society developed; workers, until recently slaves, were now openly defending their rights and organizing trade unions; children finally had a normal childhood. Even women began to be recognized as full members of society, the first time in the history of human civilization. But doubling the size of the species meant there was not enough room for everyone. World War I broke out, and almost all of the empires that existed at the time were burned in its flames. A war that ended the protracted nineteenth century and ushered in the New Age.
9. Modern times (1914-1991)
The term “Modern Times” appeared in the USSR and covered the period from 1918 to 1991. The Bolsheviks seemed to deny all past history and especially the results of World War I. The term itself is not bad, but the beginning of the XX century in the framework of our chronology it is more logical to consider the beginning of the First World War, not its end. After all, it was a war of a completely new type, the so-called total war, when all the power of the state, all its resources, including human resources, goes to war. In addition, heavy equipment (like the British Mark tank) found its application in World War I, and aviation was actively used – first for reconnaissance, but soon for direct participation in combat. The enemy no longer lined up in formidable lines or wore bright uniforms. The war moved to frozen trenches, drenched with mud and shrouded in barbed wire. Weapons of mass destruction began to be used in World War I, and the very notion of military ethics was buried deep underground. Along with tens of millions of people.
The German, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian empires burned in the fire of that war. Revolutions swept the world, the most significant of which took place in Russia, transforming the collapsing empire into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In 1920, the League of Nations, the largest supranational organization in history (at the time) emerged. By 1935, the League of Nations included 58 countries, that is, all the sovereign nations of the world except Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Tibet, and the United States. It should be noted that most of the countries of Africa and Southeast Asia remained colonies or mandated territories, which, in general, are virtually the same thing. The only difference is that the mandate to govern a territory was no longer acquired by landing with guns, but by obtaining the approval of the League of Nations.
By the end of the 1930s, it had become clear that the League of Nations was incapable of carrying out the functions assigned to it, namely preventing a new major war. To put it very simply, the organization failed to achieve arms reductions because it could not guarantee individual states protection in the event of war. A kind of vicious circle, where the Germans did not want to disarm because the French, and the French did not want to disarm because the Germans. Then there was the Spanish Civil War, a surge in the popularity of Nazism and fascism, a similar surge in the popularity of communism and democracy – and as a result of World War II. It is likely that historians in the distant future will consider these wars as one, as we today consider the Hundred Years’ War between France and England, which in fact was a series of military conflicts lasting 116 years.
By the end of the 1940s, there were no old empires left in the world, but modern superpowers, still dividing the world into spheres of influence.
No doubt the U.S. and the Soviet Union would have confronted each other directly and waged a new, even more enormous war, but the availability of nuclear weapons forced a change in the way New Age wars were fought.
These wars were, as before, waged by the dominant centers of power, but no longer directly or in their own territories. All in all, we, together with the Americans, threw weapons all over the world and spawned hundreds of either guerrilla or terrorist groups that the world cannot cope with to this day.
Finally, in the second half of the 20th century, humanity began to explore space. People who until recently had been sharpening stones for hunting and inventing tales of the moon were now walking on its surface. Moreover, we began to send sophisticated automatic stations to other planets, began to think about colonizing Mars. Again, there is no doubt: Had the Cold War continued, had the USSR not collapsed, humanity today would be an interplanetary species.
10. The Information Age (1980-present)
So here we are, getting to our time in which we live. The Information Age is when one person living in one end of the country can write an article, and another person living in the other end of the country can read it and even give his opinion.
1980 as the beginning of the information age is taken conventionally, because it is still going on and, moreover, is in its early stage. It is generally accepted that in the 1980s there was another revolution, now the digital one. It is not yet clear how much it will change the world and whether it will be as significant as the Neolithic or industrial revolution, because being a contemporary of an event of such scale and of such historical duration, it is impossible to assess it objectively. However, we can already determine the value and significance of some of the things that have become widespread as a result of the information revolution. For example, the rules of warfare have changed again. States that have entered the information age prefer to fight remotely, using drones and point-to-point special operations. The attack on the enemy now begins in information space – even the term “information warfare” has been coined. Today it has become possible with the help of communication technology to overthrow the governments of other countries without being directly involved in the conflict at all.
Коммуникационные технологии развились до такого уровня, что теперь практически все люди всегда могут связаться друг с другом, всегда могут позвонить или выйти в Сеть. Теперь твоя рука не сжимает заточенный камень, а в твоём кармане лежит настоящее чудо техники — смартфон, путь до которого был очень долог и непрост.