History of the World in Objects and Art

20 000BC      
1200BC 800 1455 1820
700BC 1070 1500 1840
350BC 1205 1530 1868
200BC 1260 1600 1890
100BC 1290 1685 1910
30 1350 1755 1920
600 1400 1800 1950
History of the World in Objects and Art Timeline

Humanity's extraordinary success is due to our ingenuity in devising cultural means to overcome our physical limitations. Early stone tools seem crude, but they were the first step on the road to computers, the Moon, and beyond. Along the way we developed language, allowing the sharing of knowledge, skills, and ideas.
Our early ancestors evolved in Africa and spread into Asia and Europe. Around 2.5 million years ago, they developed stone tools, initially to cut through tough hides to access meat. This began a period called the Stone Age, divided into the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic. Paleolithic people tamed fire for protection, warmth, and cooking. Several human species continued to evolve. One, the Neanderthals, began burying their dead and caring for their disabled. Around 200,000 все, Homo sapiens (modern humans) emerged in Africa.

Outcompeting other human species, by 11,500 все they had spread across Asia, Europe, and the Americas and crossed open ocean to Australia. They had created art, sewn clothing, made shelters, and domesticated dogs.

Late Paleolithic people inhabited an ice age world. By around 9600 все, however, the world's climate was similar to today's. Communities began exploiting newly available resources, and in some areas settled permanently instead of traveling to obtain seasonally available resources. For different reasons in different areas, some communities began cultivating plants, and in some parts of the world herding animals. As agriculture and a settled way of life brought population growth, Neolithic farmers expanded into new areas. To obtain useful materials from other places, sedentary communities developed exchange networks. They also sought luxuries with which they could demonstrate their superiority over others. These included fine stone and eventually, in some areas, metals.
Prehistoric Art that Made the World Think Again
The first masterpieces of painting
The Lascaux Caves were discovered purely by chance. On 12 September 1940 four boys were roaming through the woods above Montignac in the Vezere Valley, when suddenly their little dog disappeared in front of them. Terrified, they ran to the spot where he had been and discovered a small crevice in the ground thus began the adventure related above.
Caves were the first type of permanent housing for human beings, when they were still active as hunters and gatherers at the dawn of history. Around 15,000 ВС, several groups seem to have settled near each other in the south-western region of Dordogne in France. In nearly zoo caves, prehistoric remains have been discovered. Due to the unusual atmospheric conditions present in these caves, an astonishing number of palaeolithic paintings have been preserved in excellent condition.
The discovery made by the four boys affected the history of art as nothing had ever done before. In the Lascaux Caves, which are about 100 metres long, more than 1,500 palaeolithic incised drawings and roughly 600 realistic paintings  of bison, stag, ox and other animals were discovered. Nowhere else have so many prehistoric pictures been found preserved in one place. Researchers assume that for about 5,000 years people have inhabited these caves, painting the walls over and over again ultimately leaving; behind a "prehistoric art museum".
Some of these pictures are extremely large: the walls of the biggest cavern (The Great Hall) is decorated with some bulls measuring five metres in length. Unique in their vitality and remarkable in the skill with which they were executed, these pictures dramatically changed our view of art history. Until well into the nineteenth century, it was thought that art had developed gradually and in stages over time, similar to the way a child's art develops from awkward beginnings to more polished forms. In fact, when the first cave paintings were discovered in 1879 at Altamira in northern Spain, they were regarded as fakes. Further discoveries, above all the paintings at Lascaux, removed all doubts: as early as 15,000 BC painting was already a "fine art".

The Great Hall
c.15,330-15,050 BC
Lascaux Caves, France

Around 2500 все, the world's first planned towns and cities appeared throughout the Indus region (part of present-day India and Pakistan). Indus society was highly organized and produced many fine artifacts, but some details of the culture remain obscure because their script has not yet been deciphered.
Most Indus towns and cities had a massive raised sector, the citadel, with monumental public buildings. These included the Great Bath at Mohenjo-daro, which was probably a place of ritual purification. Indus political organization remains a mystery, partly because the writing invented by the Indus people defies decipherment. However, society was organized and controlled, with a good standard of living and highly developed craft specialization. A warehouse and workshops at Lothal in southern Gujarat, as well as Harappa in the Punjab, exemplify the role of towns and cities in manufacturing, storing, and distributing goods for external trade and circulation within the Indus realm. Rivers provided transport networks, and goods were carried by herders moving between seasonal pastures. Hunter-gatherers brought in ivory and other materials from beyond the settled lands.


The valleys, mountains, and coasts of the Indus state provided agricultural and pastoral abundance and many
raw materials. The Indus people also obtained metal ores and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan. They shipped lapis lazuli to Mesopotamia, along with carnelian and other gemstones, ivory, timber, gold, copper, and other materials, probably in exchange for silver and woolen textiles.

After 1800 все, unknown changes brought about the disintegration of the Indus realm. Towns and cities were abandoned, and writing ceased. However, farming communities continued to flourish in many parts of the region.
The world's first civilization emerged in southern Mesopotamia, the birthplace of writing, around 3300 все. Early city-states were united around 2350 все, and Babylon became the capital of later empires in this region. In northern Mesopotamia (Assyria), linked culturally with the south, empires emerged from around 1800 все. Later, the Assyrians expanded to control all of western Asia.
Southern Mesopotamia created many innovations of world significance during the 4th millennium все. Farming on the lower Tigris and Euphrates rivers depended on irrigation. The invention of the seeder plough made preparation of the soil easier and maximized productivity. Crops included barley, dates, and vegetables. Cattle kept for ploughing also gave milk and dung fertilizer. Sheep were now bred for wool, woven into textiles. Pastured locally or grazed farther afield by shepherds, sheep and goats also provided milk, meat, and leather.

The temple dominated society at this time. Grain from temple lands was used to pay people working for the temple as farmers, laborers, artisans, or traders. Such public service or employment, paid in grain rations and cloth, continued later, when power passed to secular rulers.

The first cities appeared around ЗЗООвсе in Sumer, centered on temples. The first known is Uruk, which yielded clay tablets inscribed with the earliest writing, invented to aid the temple authorities in their administrative
tasks. By the mid-3rd millennium все, texts also included literature, such as epic tales of the early Uruk king Gilgamesh. Secular authority, vested in kings, who were originally war leaders, grew in importance as city-states came into conflict over land and water for irrigation.


Around 2350 все, Sargon of Akkad created the Akkadian Empire, uniting the south. He standardized many aspects of the administration, including weights and measures. The later Ur III Empire imposed stiflingly detailed bureaucratic control. Following Ur Ill's fall in 2004 все, smaller city-states rose to power, but these were conquered in the 18th century все by Hammurabi of Babylon (famous for his "law code" inscribed on a stone stela).

Agriculturally rich, Babylonia was poor in raw materials. It traded copper from Oman and later Cyprus; lapis lazuli and tin from Afghanistan; and lumber, gold, ivory, and gemstones from the Indus. In exchange, it offered manufactured goods, especially fine textiles produced on an industrial scale in workshops staffed by women and children.


Diplomatic correspondence reveals shifting patterns of alliance and hostility between the major later 2nd millennium все powers: Egypt, the Hittites, Mitanni in northern Mesopotamia, and the Kassites in Babylonia. The small northwestern state of Assyria expanded as Mitanni declined. Its fortunes fluctuated, but for long periods it dominated western Asia. Palace relief sculptures bring Assyrian campaigns vividly to life. One depicts King Sennacherib's beautiful terraced garden at Nineveh, perhaps the original of the Hanging Gardens attributed to Babylon.

Babylonia conquered Assyria in 612 все, but then fell to the Persians in 539 все. However, Mesopotamia's cultural legacy included inventions such as glass, the potter's wheel, and improved knowledge of medicine, astronomy, and complex mathematics including geometry.
1792 ВС

The Code of Hammurabi


From its inception, ancient Egypt was defined by its religious beliefs. Worship of all-powerful deities was part of daily life, and ancient Egyptians believed that when they died they would enjoy an afterlife. Its pharaohs, kings who were regarded as gods, controlled the vast resources of the kingdom, using them to build architecture on a grand scale and tombs filled with beautiful objects.
Egypt is often called "the gift of the Nile," and ancient Egypt owed much to the river. Its annual floods brought water and fertile silt to sustain agriculture and, by the late 4th millennium все, supported a few towns, with growing regional control. The regions of Upper and Eower Egypt were eventually united in 3100все by the legendary King Menes, who made his capital centrally at Memphis. A pattern of alternating regional division and centralized control was repeated throughout subsequent Egyptian history. During times of prosperity and under strong rulers, the land was united; when troubles arose, weakened rulers lost overall control and the kingdom disintegrated into smaller political realms enjoying varying degrees of independence.


Comparatively little is known of Egypt's first two dynasties (the Early Dynastic period). The Old Kingdom began with the 3rd dynasty in 2686 все. Its pharaohs built the first pyramids (see p.28). They obtained gold from Nubia and traded with the
city of Byblos for lumber. The Sun god Re became Egypt's supreme deity. However, poor floods and subsequent famine brought political disintegration from 2181 все (the First Intermediate period).


Upper and Lower Egypt were reunited under Mentuhotep II around 2040век. In 1985 все, the throne passed to Amenemhat I, founder of the 12th dynasty, who built a new capital at Itj-tawy. The borders of the kingdom's administrative divisions (nomes) were fixed. Kings were still buried beneath pyramids, now surrounded by nobles' tombs. Substantial temples were built, and the cult of Osiris grew in importance.
To gain better control of Nubia's gold deposits, fortresses were built and a canal constructed. The early 17th century все saw a decline in royal authority, and the usurpation of power in the delta by the Semitic Hyksos dynasty in 1650 все began the Second Intermediate period. Itj-tawy was abandoned, but an Egyptian dynasty still controlled Upper Egypt.


Around 1550bce, the native dynasty drove out the Hyksos and founded the New Kingdom. Egyptian domination of Nubia was extended southward. Pharaohs were now buried in rock-cut tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The Theban god Amun was preeminent, and large temple complexes were built, particularly at Luxor.
In the 14th century все, the pharaoh Akhenaten broke with tradition, instituting worship of a single god, the Aten, and building a new capital at Amarna. Neither survived his death, the status quo being restored under his youthful successor, Tutankhamun. International trade flourished, and the Egyptians expanded their rule eastward.
By the 11th century все, political control was disintegrating. A general of Libyan origin seized control of Upper Egypt in 1069 все, ushering in the Third Intermediate period during which Upper and Lower Egypt were ruled by separate, although related, dynasties. Egypt was reunited in the late 8th century все by the Kushite (Nubian) 25th dynasty.
The Pharaoh's Curse

Tutankhamen's tomb

After six years of intense excavation work in the Valley of the Kings, the archaeologist Howard Carter had finally stumbled on the entrance to a tomb. 1 he tomb of Tutankhamen? He did not know for certain, but he sent the above telegram to his patron, Lord George Edward Carnarvon, imploring him to come to Egypt as quickly as possible. Carter recovered the tomb and awaited Lord Carnarvon's arrival a period of almost three weeks in which Carter was sleepless with excitement.
Carter and Carnarvon experienced one of the greatest triumphs in the history ofarchaeology: after they had cleared the last of the sixteen steps leading into the tomb, the two were standing in front of a walled-up entrance bearing the royal emblem of Tutankhamen! This was only the beginning. When Carter and Carnarvon found a second walled-up entrance, they took a crowbar and knocked a hole m the 3,000 year-old masonry. Through it, they gazed at things that left them speechless. The flickering light of a candle illuminated the most important treasures ever discovered in Egypt. Among them was a gold throne with a brilliantly coloured back a present to the youngPharaoh from his wife. Carter described the chair as "the most beautiful thing that has ever been found in Egypt". These objects captured the world's attention and sparked a lasting interest in Egyptian art. It was as if a tale from A Thousand and One Nightshad come true, and Carter summarised his find in this way: "The most remarkablething Tutankhamen did in the eighteen years of his reign was to die and be buried."

The throne discovered in 
Tutankhamen's tomb

The press gave the story extensive coverage. It also invented another story on something it called the "Pharaoh's Curse", which was apparently deadly to anyone who disturbed the rest of the dead king. It is true that Lord Carnarvon and his wife died shortly after the tomb's discovery, as well as a number of others who had been present when it was opened. And by 1930 the only living member of the original excavation team was Howard Carter, who seemed indifferent to the rumour that these deaths were the result of an ancient malediction. After all, they had never encountered an inscription recording the "Pharaoh's Curse". Upon investigation into this series of deaths, it was discovered that quite a few were press swindles invented to keep newspaper circulation high. Yet there is something to the legend. Science has revealedthat by opening these tombs, people are exposed to an infectious mould which is present in decaying bodies. This may have something to do with the mysterious series of deaths that followed the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb.

Tutankhamen Anointed by His Wife
Anonymous, Egyptian
1355-1342 BC
Detail from the back of Tutankhamen's throne
Carved wood and gold, inlaid with Egyptian
faience, enamel, semiprecious, stones and silver
104 x 53 X 64.5 cm
From the tomb in the Valley of the Kings Egyptian Museum, Cairo
1274 ВС

The Battle of Kadesh