Social Sciences
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World History 8th
Studying world history provides important perspectives on the past and offers direction for the future. In high school you’re expanding your knowledge about the world, learning about different cultures and exploring different periods that have shaped where you sit today. Student resources for high school world history can help you find what you need for everyday homework and for important class projects.

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Some sites for learning World History:
Student Resources for History:

Student's Guide, Why Study History? :

History Insights:

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The Rise of Greek Civilization
Greek Religion, Philosophy, and the Arts
Daily Life in Athens
Athens and Sparta
The Spread of Greek Culture

The Ancient Greeks

The ancient Greeks are in many important ways the founders of the modern world. It is true that their culture thrived thousands of years ago, but the ideas, building designs and governments that they founded anciently still exist in the Western World today. From sports to democracy, the Ancient Greeks will continue to influence the lives of billions of people for centuries to come.

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The Aegean Sea

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The Greeks were protected on one side by mountains and on the other side by the waters of the Aegean Sea. The coastline of the Balkan Peninsula where the Greek mainland is found is made of thousands of inlets and coves. These coves were ideal for sea ports. Because no part of Greece was more than fifty miles from the coastline, many Greeks made their living through trade, fishing, and other seafaring means.

The mountains of the Balkan Peninsula made travel over land difficult. This tended to isolate cities and states from one another. As a result, the nation of Greece never united under one central government, but instead was comprised of smaller regions known as city-states, each with its own local government.
In addition to the mainland, the Greeks also spread across much of the Mediterranean, inhabiting the islands and coastlines in the area.

Before The Greeks

Prior to the rule of the Greeks, another great civilization flourished in the same region. These people where known as the Minoans. For centuries the Minoans were lost to history, and were believed to be nothing more than an ancient myth. Then around 1900, an archeologist by the name of Sir Author Evans discovered an ancient palace that predated the Greeks.

It is now known that the Minoans flourished from around 2500 B.C. until about 1400 B.C. This civilization was both powerful and advanced. Their might allowed them to control the Aegean Sea, keeping it free from criminals and pirates.
Evidence from archeological finds show that the Minoans curled their hair, and that they wore gold jewelry and belts. Just as this society was growing and seeing great success, it suddenly disappeared. Many archeologists believe that it was destroyed by a giant tidal wave. Others believe that they were conquered by another group of people known as the Mycenaeans.

The Minoans
Arthur Evans had no idea what he was about to discover. The archeologist received permission to dig on the Greek island of Crete, expecting to find normal remains of ancient Greek or Roman cultures. Instead, he found something much older: a culture that pre-dated Classical Greece by hundreds of years. Evans named the civilization ‘Minoans’ in honor of a fictional city, Minos, in The Odyssey.

The Minoans lived on the island of Crete a very long time ago. Their culture spanned 2600 years, from about 3650 BC to 1100 BC. While we do not know the name they called themselves, archeologists have discovered much about their culture. To make it easier to understand, it has been divided into periods. Each period of time covers several hundred years and begins with an important change in their society. Although the word ‘palace’ is part of the vocabulary when talking about Minoans, the structures were not our idea of palaces. They were large complexes with areas designed to serve different purposes and a special place for rulers to live.
No one knows for sure how Minos came to an end, but its destruction was sudden. All palaces and villas were destroyed in about 1500 BC. Minos’ last major city, Knossos, was lost in 1375. Archeologists point to likely invasion or to the eruption of the Thera volcano as the most probable cause of the loss of the Minoans. Finally, in about 1100 BC, the culture that had thrived for thousands of years, gave way to more powerful forces. The Mycenaeans took control of Crete until all we have left is artifacts and curiosity.

The Mycenaeans
The Mycenaeans originated in Central Asia. As their population grew, they began to spread into the Balkan Peninsula. By around 1400 B.C., the Mycenaeans had overrun the Minoans and began to rule as the dominant culture in the area.
In order to protect their people, the Mycenaeans built large fortresses astride the hills and mountain tops of their villages. These fortresses offered a place of refuge during times of danger.
By 1100 B.C., the Mycenaean civilization came to an end. Historians are not sure what happened to their civilization, but one theory is they were over-run by a group of people known as the Dorians. Read more about the Mycenaean civilization and what may have happened to them on the next page.

A Trojan Horse

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The Greeks believed in two myths known as the Iliad and the Odyssey. These myths were taught in schools, and were also used as examples of the type of life that a Greek citizen should strive to live.
Among the stories found in these myths is that of a giant wooden horse. In the myth of the Iliad, an army attempted to conquer the city of Troy. After ten years, they had still been unable to break through the Trojan’s defenses. In frustration, they devised a plot to get the Trojan’s to let them into their city.

The Trojan horse, the very word has come to mean a sneaky trick. It was a military strategy used by the Greeks to take over the City of Troy in a war that may not have actually taken place. The Trojan War is one of the most important events in Greek Mythology. Because it was an event in mythology, many historians and archaeologists wonder if the war really took place; but in 1869, two archaeologists named Henrich Schleimann and Frank Calvert found the remains of an ancient city in the right place to be Troy. However, the debate goes on and on without signs of stopping.

We know about the Trojan War because of ancient writers. These writers wrote about the war hundreds of years after it was supposed to have taken place. The most important of these writers were the poets Homer and Virgil. Homer was a Greek poet. His most famous works deal with the Trojan War. The names of his very long poems are the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Iliad describes the last year of the Trojan War and ends with the death of the Trojan ruler, Hector, but before the Greeks take and destroy the city of Troy. The Odyssey talks about the Greek hero Odysseus' trip home. Homer talks about the Trojan horse in the Odyssey, not the Iliad; the Iliad ended before the horse was used.

The Olympics

As the Greek civilization continued to evolve, they began to practice many important festivals. One of these festivals was a sporting event that took place every four years in the city of Olympia. These sporting events celebrated the human form and the strength of both mankind as well as the gods. In particular, the god Zeus. Citizens of Greece would travel to Olympia from all over the nation to take part in a variety of sporting events where they could demonstrate their strength and athleticism.

The Greek Governments

Each Greek city-state was called a polis. The word polis still shows up in many English words today, such as politics, police, and metropolis. A polis typically included a city, along with surrounding villages, and fields.

Typically a polis, or city-state had a high hill at the center, called the acropolis. At the top of the acropolis, the Greeks built temples to their patron gods. At the base of the acropolis the Greeks carried out the business of the polis, including merchant activities, such as buying and selling goods, as well as the business of their government.

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Most city-states granted rights to their citizens. These citizens could vote for their leaders, own property, and participate in both government and civic responsibilities. Not everyone who lived in a city-state was a citizen, however. These city-states had many slaves and foreigners who did not have the rights of those native born men. Most women also did not have the rights of a citizen.

The Greek Colonies

As the Greeks began to see great prosperity, their population exploded. As a result of this increasing population, the farmers in the city-states where not able to produce enough food to support and feed everyone.

To solve this problem, the city-states began to colonize regions around the Mediterranean Sea. These colonies supplied their parent polis, known as a metropolis, with grain and food, while the metropolis would supply its colony with the supplies that it needed.

The Development of Money

For generations the people of the Balkan Peninsula and throughout the world did business by bartering goods. Items were traded directly for items of an equal value. Then, around 600 B.C., this all changed with the development of coin money.

At first, coins were produced by merchants as a type of credit system. Over time, the local city-states took over the responsibility of manufacturing coin money. This new tool allowed their economy to explode. Goods from all over the world were shipped into the area, while other items were shipped out.

The Two Rival Capitals

While not capitals in the traditional sense, two of the Greek city-states competed with each other for the title of most important, and for the power and wealth that was associated with being the most successful. These two city-states where Athens and Sparta.

Around 700 B.C., both Athens and Sparta where ruled by powerful kings. These kings slowly lost power to local merchants and noblemen. The lower classes were not given any rights nor authority. This was a source of anger and a possible cause of revolts.

The farmers and other lower classes demanded that their voices be heard, and that their rights be granted. Both Athens and Sparta faced great challenges. How would they maintain their control and influence over their people? Each city-state solved this challenge very differently.

Athens – A People of Freedom and Dreams

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The people of Athens granted rights and privileges of citizenship to all the lower classes. Every male member of their city-state were given the same rights as the wealthiest politicians. They could buy property, serve in public office, and participate in other aspects of daily life.

Athenian men were highly educated. They began their formal education at the age of seven and continued until age eighteen. The reason that they placed such high importance on educating all young men was because it was likely that everyone would at some point have an opportunity to serve in public life.

Instead of voting for their public leaders, these leaders were selected at random through the process of a lottery. The Athenians believed that any male was capable of making a good leader, and they worried about votes being influenced by those with money or important family names.

The Athenians also introduced the concept of trial by jury. Juries might be made up of more than 1,000 individuals, which they believed insured that no one could bribe them. A decision of a jury had to be made by the majority vote.

This freedom and emphasis on education helped create an atmosphere that would produce some of the most important advancements that the Greeks are credited for; everything from science, to art, to medicine. Athens became a center of culture and education for the entire world.

Sparta – A City of Soldiers

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Sparta took a very different approach to controlling their people. They decided that the best way to insure that their people remained obedient to their laws was to create a massive army.

Spartan boys were expected to join the army. Even from birth, if a male child did not appear to be strong, city officials would leave the baby on a hill to die. At the age of seven, boys were required to leave their families and begin training for battle. They would remain in the army until age 60, when they were allowed to retire.

Their emphasis on war was very effective at keeping obedience and loyalty in their city-state. Sparta’s military expertise has been credited for many victories that helped protect the other city-states. However, Sparta did not focus on much else. As a result, they were poorer, and less technically advanced than the other city-states.

The Peloponnesian War

Over time, Athens gradually became richer and more powerful than all the other city-states. As its influence grew, the leaders of Athens began to demand loyalty from the other city-states. This loyalty was further strengthened when an alliance was formed to fight the Persians, who were invading Greece. After the Persians were defeated, the troops raised for the war were used by Athens to control the other city-states.

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Shortly after, an Athenian general by the name of Pericles insisted that all criminal trials be held in Athens. He also attempted to force the other city-states to adopt and use Athens money.

Led by Sparta, the other city-states rebelled against the growing strength of Athens. The war that followed is known as the Peloponnesian War. This war lasted from 431 B.C. until 404 B.C., and had devastating effects on Greece.

At first it appeared that Athens would win. Their powerful navy dominated the Mediterranean Sea. However, Sparta’s hatred of Athens was deep. The Spartans made a deal with Persia, their former enemy. They traded the Persians land for money. Sparta then used this gold to build a navy of their own.

For decades, the war tore the city-states of Greece apart. Finally, in 404 B.C., Sparta was able to conquer the city of Athens and demand its surrender. Though Sparta had won, no one could claim victory. The war had resulted in the deaths of many of their citizens. Orchards, vineyards and fields had been destroyed. The treasuries of the city-states had been destroyed, and faith in democracy had been reduced. As a result of the Peloponnesian War, Greece became weaker and poorer.

Within a few decades, when attacked by the Macedonians, they would be completely unable to defend themselves, and their civilization would collapse.


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During the golden age of freedom and education in Athens, many teachers traveled around Greece educating the young. One of the most famous of these teachers was a man named Socrates.

Many of the teachers of his day taught that a man should consider the consequences of his actions before making a decision. Socrates taught that the consequences did not matter. What was most important was that you always did what was right. He believed that if something was right, it did not matter what would happen to you, you should do it.

Socrates also taught his students to think for themselves. He created a teaching method known today as the Socratic Method, which helped students think clearly, and question their currently accepted way of thinking.

Socrates was eventually accused of corrupting the young. After being convicted by a jury he was sentenced to death.


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A young student of Socrates by the name of Plato began teaching upon the death of Socrates. At the age of 30, Plato opened a school that would remain in operation for nearly nine centuries following his death.

Plato authored a book which he titled "The Republic," which outlined what he believed was the perfect government. Plato felt that a democracy was not the most effective form of government, because the lower classes of people could not be trusted. He felt that the higher classes, which were more educated, ought to be in charge of the government.


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After studying with Plato for nearly 20 years, Aristotle set out on his own as a teacher. He opened a school in Athens where he taught on everything from science, to politics, to critical thinking. Aristotle wrote over 200 books during his life. These books would remain long after his death, and would affect Western thinking for centuries to come.

Alexander the Great

A young Macedonian prince by the name of Alexander was taught for four years by his teacher, Aristotle. Aristotle instructed Alexander in politics, war, and in critical thinking. Then, at the age of 16, Alexander was made a captain in the Macedonian armies where he gained the respect of his soldiers for his bravery and battle strategies. When Alexander was 20 years old his father was murdered. After the death of his father, Alexander became the king of Macedonia. The capital of Macedonia was the city of Babylon.

Having been tutored by Aristotle, Alexander admired the Greeks. He thought that their culture was refined and that it had many things to offer. Alexander also admired the Persian culture, seeing many things that he thought were noteworthy.

Alexander determined to conquer both Greece and Persia, and combine them into an empire that would rival any other empire anywhere in the world. For the next 13 years Alexander, now known as Alexander the Great, marched his troops from battle to battle, conquering more and more territory.

At the age of 33, Alexander the Great contracted a fever which quickly took his life. The empire he had worked so hard to build was divided among three of his generals whose decedents ruled these three territories as separate empires.

Upon his death, the empire that Alexander the Great had built fractured into three separate kingdoms. These kingdoms later fractured into yet more smaller states. However, even though his kingdom did not last long, his influence did. The conquests of Alexander the Great spread the Greek culture throughout much of Europe and Asia.

Links about Greek Comedy, theater, and tragedy:

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The Geography of China´s River Valleys
Confucius and his teachings

Civilization in China

The Chinese civilization is the oldest civilization still in existence today, and extends back through history in an unbroken chain over nearly four thousand years. Throughout these thousands of years of history, the Chinese people have been instrumental in developing technologies and advancing the knowledge of mankind. The Chinese have been ruled by a succession of dynasties. A dynasty is a family that passes the right to rule the nation from one generation to the next.

The Xia Dynasty

Before China developed the ability to write down their history, stories were passed down orally from one generation to the next. The story of the Xia Dynasty is such a case. For decades historians have believed that the Xia Dynasty was just legend. Then, in 1959, evidence was found that showed that this dynasty may not have just been legend, but may have really existed. The truth about whether or not the Xia Dynasty really existed is still being debated.

The Shang Dynasty

Like the Xia Dynasty, the Shang Dynasty was once thought to be only a myth or legend. Unlike the Xia Dynasty, which is still being heavily debated, the Shang Dynasty is now considered by all historians as a true dynasty. Because many historians do not consider the Xia Dynasty a true dynasty, the Shang Dynasty is often called the first true Chinese dynasty.

The Shang Dynasty ruled China from around 1500 B.C. until 1100 B.C. During this 400 year period of history, Chinese tradition states that 30 separate kings ruled from a succession of 7 different capitals. Only a few of these capitals have been located and excavated by archeologists. The last capital from which this dynasty ruled was located in 1899, and was the first Shang Dynasty capital to be found and studied.

One of the most important contributions made during the period that the Shang Dynasty ruled China was the invention of writing. The earliest written records found in China come from this time period.

The Zhou Dynasty

The Zhou family was able to defeat and overthrow the last Shang Dynasty king in 1028 B.C. They claimed that the Shang Dynasty had lost the mandate of heaven due to their poor governing. The Zhou Dynasty would become the longest lasting dynasty in Chinese history, lasting over 800 years. The Zhou set up a new economy, rearranging the affairs of the kingdom. As they did so, the borders of their kingdom swelled, and they were able to maintain control over the people they conquered effectively.

Zhou kings assigned noblemen, who were usually members of the royal family, to serve as regional rulers. These noblemen owned the land and were given absolute authority over it. The peasants could not own land, but instead worked the land for the noblemen. This form of government worked well for several hundred years. However, overtime the king slowly became less powerful, while the noblemen grew in power. In 771 B.C., while fighting against a rebellion, the Zhou armies suffered a terrible defeat. As a result, the Zhou Dynasty lost even more power to the noblemen. They managed to hang on to power for another 500 years. Then, in 256 B.C., the Zhou Dynasty was finally overthrown.

The Qin Dynasty

By 221 B.C., a man by the name of Qin had overthrown all remaining members of the Zhou Dynasty, and all other opposition, allowing him to place himself as the ruler of China. The Qin Dynasty would only last about 11 years. Yet, during these short years, this dynasty would make changes that would affect the history of China for thousands of years. So influential was Qin, that the name of the nation, China, is a derivative of his name.

In order to show his importance and power, Qin added a new name to his own. He began calling himself Qin Shihuangdi, which means Qin, the first emperor of China. Qin Shihuangdi again reorganized the affairs of China. Instead of a system of noblemen, Qin wanted everything to be under his direct authority and control. He established a strict set of written laws that were recognized throughout China, and set up military control in each region of China so that local noblemen could not rebel against the emperor.

The Great Wall of China

Early emperors had built walls in the northern territories to protect their nation against attack from outside forces. These walls were spread across the landscape and not connected. Qin was an ambitious leader. He ordered his people to connect the existing walls together, and to expand them, eventually covering a distance of over 4000 miles (6437km), as seen in this map.
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Over 300,000 peasants were forced to help build the Great Wall of China. Many of which died during the construction. After working for several years, the Great Wall of China was completed and still stands today as one of the great building projects in human history. By 210 B.C., the peasants were tired of being forced to build one project after another for their emperor. The noblemen were upset that their power had been taken away, and the scholars were upset at the emperor, who had ordered all the books to be burned. In 207 B.C., a military leader by the name of Liu Bang was able to overthrow the Qin, establishing himself as the new emperor of China.

The Han Dynasty

In the year 207 B.C., a new dynasty began to rule China. This dynasty was led by a peasant whose name was Liu Bang. Liu Bang had grown tired of the brutal leadership of the Qin Dynasty. Many other people also were tired of the Qin. Liu Bang proclaimed that the Qin had lost the mandate of heaven, or the right to rule the nation. He was able to overthrow them and establish himself as the new emperor of China, and the first emperor of the Han Dynasty.

The Han Dynasty would rule China for the next 400 years. During this time period they would be one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations on Earth. Their achievements would only be surpassed by the Roman Empire. Because of its location amidst high mountains and surrounded on many sides by water, China was isolated from much of the rest of the world. As their civilization flourished and their wealth increased, they were largely unaware of what advancements were taking place in the nations around them.

The Silk Road
In order to make trade possible, the Emperor Wudi began to develop what has been called in modern times, the Silk Road. Following this route, merchant traders brought silk from China westward, and glass, linen and gold from the West back into China.
The Silk Road consisted of trails, roads, bridges, and pathways that stretched across nearly 5000 miles (8046km) of land and water. The Silk Road is not one long road, but rather many smaller roads and pathways that were connected, and worn by the use of thousands of travelers over a pTeriod of hundreds of years. The Silk Road would become instrumental in the development and expansion of trade and the accumulation of wealth in both China and Rome as well as in Egypt and other nations.

Religion in China
The religious history of China is complex and has evolved over the centuries. Deeply interwoven into their beliefs is the worship of their ancestors. The Chinese believed that the spirits of their ancestors were watching over them, and that they could be called upon during difficult times. Throughout Chinese history many different religious movements have taken hold and then later died away. Some religious movements have lasted longer than others. A few of these still exist today.

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In 551 B.C., a man by the name of Kongzi was born to a poor family in the province of Shandong. Kongzi is known in the Western world as Confucius.

Confucius saw many problems in the world in which he lived. He wanted to help make improvements in order to change the world for the better. In order to get into a position of influence, Confucius tried to get himself appointed as an advisor to a number of different government officials. When this failed, Confucius instead set out as a teacher.

The most important things to Confucius were peace and order. He felt that everyone had a proper role in society, and that if people were willing to accept their role and fulfill it, that peace and harmony would abound. In order to help people accept their roles in society and establish order, Confucius laid out what he called ethics. These ethics outlined how individuals should treat one another. The most important of these ethics outlined the responsibilities of children to respect and listen to their parents and other elders. He also laid out ethics for how subjects should follow rulers, for how rulers should treat subjects, how husbands and wives should treat one another, and how friends should treat each other.
During his own lifetime, Confucius’ teachings were not widely accepted. However, within a hundred years they were being used by the emperor to help him rule, and eventually became a widely followed religion. Confucianism would remain a powerful force in Chinese history.


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The Indus and Ganges River Valleys
Hinduism in Ancient India
The Beginnings of Buddhism
Empires of Ancient India

Civilizations of India

For many thousands of years mankind has inhabited the Indus River Valley. Living a simple life of hunting, gathering, and later, of farming and agriculture, these peoples were able to thrive, raise families, and practice their religious beliefs. Then, in about 1500 B.C., a new, more technically advanced group of people arrived in the region. These people were known as the Aryans. The Aryans were a fair skinned people that used their technologies to conquer the peoples of the Indus River Valley.

The Aryans

The Aryans were a fair skinned people that originated somewhere near the Caspian and Black Sea around 1500 B.C. The Aryan people possessed greater technologies than many of the peoples around them. For many hundreds of years the Aryans spread from the region near these two seas towards the Indus River Valley. After conquering the peoples of the Indus River Valley, the Aryans continued to push their territory outward. They moved towards the southeast, and conquered the people of the Ganges Plain. The Aryan culture eventually spread throughout much of South Asia. Many aspects of Aryan culture still exist in these regions today.


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For many hundreds of years the Aryans did not have a written language. Instead, they passed their history down from one generation to another though stories, poems and epics. These oral histories would be memorized, word for word, and handed down, insuring that future generations would not forget their past. Around 1200 B.C., the Aryans developed a written language. The oral traditions that had been handed down were recorded in sacred books called Vedas, or “Books of Knowledge.” These Vedas give historians an accurate window into the lives and culture of the Aryan peoples. Without them, we would know very little about the Aryans.

Varnas – A Caste System

From the Vedas we learn a great deal about the social caste system implemented by the Aryans. A social caste is a rank, or level within a society that tells other members of the society how important each individual is. The Aryans called the ranks in their society varnas.

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The highest varna were the priests, called Brahmans. The Brahmans were the only varna that were allowed to both read and also teach from the Vedas.

The next most important varna were the Kshatriyas. The Kshatriyas were made up of the warriors and rulers of villages. These people were allowed to study the Vedas, but they were not allowed to teach them to other people.

After the Kshatriyas, the Vaisyas were the third varna in importance. The Vaisyas were made up of artisans, merchants and farmers. These people could not study, nor teach from the Vedas.

The lowest varna were the Sudras. The Sudras were the servants of the other three varnas, and were responsible for doing the jobs that no one else wanted.

These varnas were rigid. An individual was born into a varna, socialized only with other members of their varna, married in their varna, and died a member of their varna. They could not move up or down within that rigid system. Thus, the varna you were born into would determine your lifestyle and what types of jobs would be open to you.


The Vedas outlined the duties of each varna. These duties were called dharmas. The Aryans believed strongly in the importance of fulfilling their duties. These duties depended both on the varna that an individual belonged to, as well as on their age. The duties outlined what jobs an individual could do, what jobs they should do, and what jobs they must do. Every aspect of social life and behavior was outlined for them based on their varna.

Indian Religion

The Aryans believed in many gods. They worshipped Indra, the god of war; Agni, the god of fire; and Usha, the goddess of the morning, as well as many other minor gods and goddesses. They believed that these deities had great power over their lives. The priests performed elaborate ceremonies in an effort to both please them as well as gain their favor. Over time the Aryan religion slowly evolved, becoming more complex and rich with tradition and ceremony. The religion grew to become Hinduism, which is one of the primary religions still practiced in the region today.

Sacred Writings

In addition to the Vedas, other sacred books began to appear. The first of these were the epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. Mahabharata is a long epic poem that is over 100,000 verses long. It tells the story of two families and of their struggle for power and control over the Aryans. This story is full of philosophical ideas and thoughts on their culture and religious practices. The Ramayana is a smaller epic poem, but still considerably large at over 24,000 verses. This epic tells the story of a kind and goodly king and his wife. Later, the Upanishads would be written from 800 B.C. to 400 B.C. The Upanishads are the recorded wisdom of generations of priests as they search for religious meaning and truth.


The Hindus believed that the soul went through a series of rebirths as it strived to obtain a oneness with the universal spirit, or Brahman Nerguna. They believed that when a person died, they would be reborn again, living many lives, until they perfected themselves. This state of perfection was called Moksha.

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They believed that how a person lived their current life would determine the form they would take in the next life. If they lived a good life, and fulfilled all their dharmas or duties, they might be born into a higher varna or class in the next life. If they lived poorly, they might be born into a lower life, or even into a lower lifeform, such as a beetle or snake. When one obtained this state of Moksha, their cycle of rebirth after rebirth would finally stop, and they would live in eternal happiness at oneness with the Brahman Nerguna.

Buddhism Arrives

The 500s B.C. were a period of religious reform in the Indus River Valley and surrounding regions. Many religious leaders began to question the long standing Hindu values and teachings. New teachers began to travel, teaching new ideas, and forming new sects and religions. The most influential of these teachers was a prince by the name of Siddhartha Gautama.

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Gautama was a Kshatriya Prince. His position of power in Indian society allowed him to live a life of great comfort. This sheltered life kept him from viewing the state of poverty and sickness that many of the people lived in. When Gautama was 29 years old, he began to tour his kingdom. Gautama was shocked at how much his people suffered. Distressed, Gautama left his wife and newborn son in search of truth and enlightenment. For the next seven years he lived as a hermit, wandering and pondering humanity and life.

During these wanderings, Gautama developed a series of what he called the Four Noble Truths. After developing these truths, he began teaching them to his family, friends, and eventually to many others. His followers began to call him the Buddha, or “Enlightened One.”

The first of the noble truths, said the Buddha, was that all people, no matter how rich or poor, suffer pains and afflictions. Second, the Buddha taught that people suffer these afflictions because they keep traveling through the endless cycle of rebirths, or reincarnation. He taught that these rebirths were caused by mankind’s desires for different things.

Thirdly, he taught that people could end their cycle of rebirths, and thus their suffering by ending their desires for things. Finally, the Buddha taught that a person could eliminate their desires by following what he called the Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path

In order to eliminate their desires for worldly things and thus end the cycle of rebirths, the Buddha taught his people to follow eight principles. These eight principles were to know the truth, resist evil, say nothing that might be hurtful, respect life, free the mind from evil, work in service towards neighbors, control evil thoughts, and practice meditation.

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By following the eightfold path, and avoiding evil extremes, the Buddha taught that an individual could achieve nirvana. He taught that nirvana, which in their language meant to blow out a candle, was a state of non-existence. It was not a place, like heaven, but rather an actual state of non-existence. When someone reached nirvana, their soul was in harmony with the universe and they would cease to exist

Buddhism Spreads Abroad

The Buddha spent 45 years traveling throughout India teaching the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Through his efforts, he was able to gain a large following of several thousand disciples. After his death, the Buddha’s followers continued to travel, preaching the new religion throughout the Asian continent, into China, Japan, Korea, and eventually throughout the World.

The Mauryan Empire

Maurya was a skilled leader and politician as well as military leader. He expanded the Kingdom of Magadha into the Mauryan Empire. Maurya developed infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and a post office, that would help his empire to flourish for almost 150 years.

Maurya’s grandson Asoka began his rule as a brutal warlord. His military expanded the borders of the empire to include two thirds of the Indian subcontinent. In later life, Asoka grew tired of war and became converted to Buddhism. He taught his people to be kind to others and to have regard for human life. Under his rule, Buddhist teachers were able to spread Buddhism far and wide.

After the death of Asoka, the Mauryan empire entered a period of decline. His successors levied heavy taxes on the people. Their harsh treatment caused the people to turn against their Mauryan masters. The last Mauryan king was murdered in 184 B.C., which ended the Mauryan Empire. The region again returned to the control of small city-states.

The Gupta Empire

For 490 years following the fall of the Mauryan Empire, the Indian people would remain under the rule of small city-states. Then, in 310 A.D., a new leader emerged who would begin again to unify India. This leader’s name was Chandragupta. Chandragupta set up his capital in the old Kingdom of Magadha. Under the rule of Chandragupta and his descendants, the people of the Gupta Empire flourished. During this time period great advances in art and science were made. For this reason, many historians refer to this time period as the golden era of Indian history.

After the death of one of their greatest kings, Chandragupta II, the Gupta Empire began to fall apart. New leaders were not as effective in ruling the government. As the government became weaker, invaders from the northwest were able to weaken and ultimately destroy the empire. By 600 A.D., the Gupta Empire was no more. The region was once again made up of a collection of many different city-states. However, even though the Gupta Empire was gone, the Gupta culture remained. Much of modern Indian culture was first established by the Guptans.

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Ancient Egypt and Nubia:
Geography of the Nile
The Rulers of Egypt
Egyptian Religion
Ancient Egyptian Culture
Thu Cultures of Nubia

The Nile Valley

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One of the earliest civilizations to evolve also happens to be among the most famous. This civilization grew out of the peoples who inhabited the valley cut out by Africa’s Nile River. The Nile River provided an endless source of fresh water, fertile soil, and food. For thousands of miles in all directions this part of Africa is covered by the sands of the desert. The lands around the Nile River, however, are quite different. Over hundreds of thousands of years, flooding of the river has deposited a thick layer of rich fertile silt across the landscape. The people living in this area dug irrigation ditches which carried the invaluable waters out from the Nile River to their farms, making the area perfect for growing food.

The Formation of An Egyptian Empire
The first settlements in the Nile Valley began around 7,000 years ago. As in other parts of the world, these settlements gradually developed into more and more complex societies. The first peoples to inhabit this region called their land Kemet, which means black lands. This name comes from the rich black soil that was found there. The different regions of the Nile River were ruled and governed by tribal chiefs and kings. As the centuries passed, smaller kingdoms joined together forming larger and larger kingdoms. This continued until around 6,000 years ago when the Nile Valley consisted of only two large kingdoms. These kingdoms were called Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt. Lower Egypt was in the northern portion of the Nile Valley, and Upper Egypt was in the southern portion of the Nile Valley.

Around 5,000 years ago a powerful king from the Upper Egyptian nation led an army north in order to conquer Lower Egypt. This king's name was Narmer. Narmer established a unified Egypt throughout the Nile Valley. He built a capital on the border between Lower and Upper Egypt, which he named Memphis. From Memphis, Narmer and his decedents ruled Egypt. A family that rules a nation is known as a dynasty. From 5,000 years ago until around 2,300 years ago Egypt was ruled by 30 different dynasties. Historians divide the nearly 2,500 years of Egyptian history into three periods. These periods are known as the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, and the New Kingdom.

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The Egyptians Built Pyramids

The Egyptian people believed that their rulers were gods. They believed that after they died, these rulers would continue to work in behalf of the Egyptian nation. Thus, the death of a king was an important event. Egyptians went to great efforts to honor their deceased rulers, and to insure them a successful trip to the afterlife. These kings were buried with elaborate treasures, food supplies, and often even servants. The bodies of the kings as well as those of other important individuals were preserved from decay through the process of mummification. These remains were then laid to rest within elaborate burial chambers. The most elaborate of these burial chambers were constructed during the Old Kingdom. Massive stone buildings known as pyramids stretched upward into the sky. These pyramids took decades and many thousands of laborers to construct. They stand as a testament to the awesome power and might of the Egyptian Kingdom.

When people around the world think of Egypt, they think of pyramids. While other peoples of the ancient world built these interesting structures, the countryside of Egypt is best known for them. These ancient structures stretch up from the sandy desert ground toward the skies, timeless reminders of the power of the kingdoms of this historic country. Most pyramids are three or four sided structures, meeting at the top in a triangular, pointed tip. The solid base and small top made for a solid building design. The largest pyramid, the Great Pyramid of Khufu, covers an amazing 13 acres and originally stood 488 feet (149m) high. Due to wear and theft of the beautiful limestones used as the outer walls, the structure now stands only 455 feet (138m) high. Around 1,300,000 bricks were used, but not bricks like we think of today. The ‘little’ cut limestone pieces weigh 5,500 pounds each and the larger ones weigh 33,000 pounds!

Pyramid building became more and more efficient, with early pyramids, such as the step pyramid tomb of Pharaoh Djoser, in ruins. Built on a poor foundation, the pyramid architect did not carve the stones so that they leaned slightly inward, making the weight of the stones lock the pyramid into place. Later structures, such as the three Great Pyramids of Giza, were put together much better and have stood the test of time with little damage. Some people believe that a huge slave population built the pyramids. While some slave labor probably played an important role, not all the workers were slaves. For four months of the year, the Nile River floods, making it impossible for farmers to work the land. It is likely that, during this time, farmers worked alongside the year-round workers to construct the massive monuments.

Archeologists now believe that the larger pyramids only took about 20 years to build, with a work force of 100,000 men. (Some female skeletons have also been unearthed that show the results of hard labor, so some workers may have been women.) But conditions were not as harsh as once believed. Large towns have been discovered at the bases of pyramids that included everything from bakeries to medical care centers. Pharaohs made sure their workers were strong and able to work hard. So why would so much effort and so many man hours be put into a monument? Egyptians believed that pharaohs were gods. One of dozens of gods, the Pharaoh was the protector of the heavens and of the sun god. Once the ruler passed away, he became god of the dead. Even though he was gone from the earth, a part of his spirit stayed with his body. Because of this, his body stayed important to the Egyptians. They made sure it was mummified (kept from decay), that he had food, weapons and sometimes even slaves in his pyramid-tomb, and that his final resting place was elegant – fit for a king! Not all Egyptian pyramids held the bodies and property of Pharaohs and their queens. Some were erected by wealthy individuals who just wanted to be remembered after they died. Whether pharaoh or simple Egyptian, the age of the pyramids lasted approximately 1000 years, ending in 1700 BC.

The Decline of the Egyptian Empire

This first great empire eventually fell into decline. In 1100 B.C., a pharaoh by the name of Ramses III led Egypt into a war in an attempt to conquer Syria. This war was costly and drained the treasury of Egypt.

In 945 B.C., Egypt was conquered and ruled by a succession of different foreign powers.

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Land Between Two Rivers
Fertile Crescent Empires
The Legacy of Mesopotamia
Mediterranean Civilizations

The Fertile Crescent

Around 7,000 years ago changing weather patterns forced people to migrate from the Arabian Peninsula Northward in search of water. Decreasing rainfall meant that important lakes and streams, critical to life, were no longer available. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers provided the perfect location for these peoples to settle. These two large rivers run along side each other, and span hundreds of miles. Between these rivers are found a crescent shaped landscape where the soil is fertile and deep. This area is known as the Fertile Crescent.

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Some of the first cities on Earth formed in the Fertile Crescent. Many of these cities banded together forming small kingdoms.
One of the greatest of these kingdoms was known as Mesopotamia.

The Sumerian Civilization Emerges

In about 3500 B.C., a people known as the Sumerians migrated from Asia into Mesopotamia. These people founded a city located in the Sumer Valley. By around 3000 B.C., the Sumerians had formed a number of complex city-states. A city-state is a large city along with any surrounding territory that is ruled by a single entity or ruler. It is believed that there were at least 12 Sumerians City-States in the Fertile Crescent. The people of these city-states shared a common culture and religion with one another. However, their rulers had complete autonomy from one another. They ruled their city-states without any interference from the leaders of other city-states.

Mesopotamian Empires

Around 2,000 B.C., the Sumerian city-states were conquered and united by a succession of rulers and empire builders. The first of these was a man by the name of Sargon. Legend suggests that Sargon was abandoned by his mother. Placed in a reed basket, he was pushed into the Euphrates River where he was found by a farmer in the kingdom of Akkad. Eventually Sargon grew up and became the ruler of Akkad. He immediately began a military campaign in which he united all the Sumerian city-states. Following the death of Sargon’s grandson, the empire that he had built collapsed.

Hammurabi and the Babylonian Empire

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After the decline of Sargon’s Akkadian Empire, the Sumerian city-states fell into decline. Eventually a new leader by the name of Hammurabi rose to power.
Hammurabi was an Amorite. The Amorites came into the Fertile Crescent and overran the Sumerians. Hammurabi established his kingdom which was centered in Babylon.

Hammurabi established a series of written laws describing the various violations and what the appropriate punishments would be. These laws were written down, establishing the first written system of justice. This is considered to be one of Babylon’s greatest achievements.

After the death of Hammurabi, his Babylonian Empire eventually fell. Though the empire was gone, the city-state of Babylon remained. Many centuries later a new empire would come out of Babylon, which would be ruled by a group of people known as the Chaldeans.

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The Beginnings of Human Society:
Geography and History
The Beginnings of Civilization

Fast Facts about Prehistory
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1. Prehistoric means the time before recorded history.
2. The Earth is 4.5 billion years old, but humans have only walked on the planet for 190,000 years. The earliest living organisms were microscopic bacteria, which showed up in fossils as early as 3.4 billion years ago.

3. Many things had happened in that time. The Earth formed and oxygen levels rose. About 800 million years ago, oxygen levels reached about 21 percent and began to breathe life into more complex organisms. The oxygen-rich ozone layer was also established, protecting the Earth's surface from harmful solar radiation.

4. The Paleozoic era gave rise to hard-shelled organisms, vertebrates, amphibians, and reptiles.
5. During the Mesozoic Era, dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

6. 64 million years after dinosaurs became extinct, modern humans emerged in the Cenozoic era.

7. Humans have really been on the planet for a fraction of the lifetime of the Earth. Archeologists estimate that modern humans have been on the Earth for about 200,000 years. They believe this occurred in the Middle Paleolithic period in southern Africa.
8. Humans are a member of a species of bipedal primates (this means they walk upright on two legs, which allowed them to use their hands) in the family Hominidae. Everyone on Earth is a homo sapien. This is Latin for the term, “wise human”. Humans have highly developed brains, a bipedal gait, and opposable thumbs, which allow the thumb to lock something into the hand like a tool or a weapon.
9. 70,000 years ago, humans migrated out of Africa and began colonizing the entire planet. People spread to Eurasia and Oceania 40,000 years ago, and reached the Americas 14,500 years ago.
10. One of the oldest sites of human settlement is located at Middle Awash in Ethiopia, where humans lived 160,000 years ago.

Prehistoric Humans
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Little is known about the lives of early human beings. What we do know has been gathered through the study of ancient caves that scientists called archeologists believe early humans probably lived in. The evidence suggests that the first human beings lived in caves along the southern coast of Africa. This region provided ample supplies of food as well as a warm climate. It is believed that the men probably traveled in hunting packs or groups into the mainland looking for big game while the women stayed near the coast.

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Another type of scientist that studies human history is an anthropologist. Anthropologists study humans and other human-like creatures known as hominids. They compare the bones of these creatures to one another, looking for changes in brain size and posture. Mankind began keeping a written history about 5,500 years ago. Much of what we think of as human history happened between then and now. However, in reality this is just a scratch on the surface of human history. Anthropologists and archeologists have traced human history back some 4.4 million years.

Language Develops
The first simple languages spoken by Homo erectus likely developed around 500,000 years ago. This would have been a dramatic development of paramount importance. Now groups could discuss plans, teach techniques, explain how to track animals, or where to go to find water, as well as form religion and folklore. The knowledge of one generation could now be passed down to the next, building from generation to generation, expanding the human experience.Prior to spoken languages, members of a group communicated with one another by grunting or through simple noises and hand gestures. Spoken language allowed group members to exchange complex thoughts and ideas, and pass on their culture from one generation to the next.

The Agricultural Revolution
For hundreds of thousands of years hominids depended on nature for their survival. Food came from wild plants and animals. A natural disaster could reduce the amount of food in the environment which might have a devastating effect on the peoples in nearby regions.Around 8,000 years ago a new way of providing food emerged. This revolutionary advancement was that of farming. Instead of hunting and gathering food from the environments where they lived, humans learned to simply grow their own food.Grains such as wheat, barley, rice and corn were grown in different parts of the world. Wild animals were also domesticated. Goats were utilized for their meat and milk, cattle, pigs and chickens provided a steady source of food for the support of a group of humans.

Villages Develop
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With the advent of farming and domesticated animals to feed a society, life became much easier for early humans. As a result, many more humans survived the difficulties of life. The population quickly rose from around 2 million humans on the Earth to more than 90 million. Farming allowed people to build villages along rivers, or wherever the ground was fertile enough for crops to grow. Archeologists have found some villages that are believed to have been built more than 8,000 years ago. Some of these ancient villages, such as Jericho, still survive to this day.

Technologies Advance Quickly
With an abundance of food and more permanent shelters, people had more time to devote to the development of new technologies. Better farming equipment, such as the ox-driven plow, were invented. The wheel aided humans greatly in transporting goods from one location to another. The loom allowed people to weave cloth and create finer and more comfortable clothing.
Tools were created for measuring the passage of time, such as calendars, star charts and sundials. This helped farmers track when the growing season would arrive, and when the best time to plant crops would be. People learned improved farming techniques, such as how to use fertilizers in their fields, and how to better utilize water through irrigation. Villagers dug large canals and complex systems of ditches, delivering water from distant sources to where it was most needed.