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In history, why were European populations so advanced, if compared to other populations, such as native Americans?
What's the reason why Europeans were so good in technology and science? Why did Europeans use money instead barter?
Also, was Greece the birthplace of this "technology and culture"?
First of all this was not always the case in history. In the period approximately 400-1500, European populations were not more technologically advanced than some populations in Asia. And even before that, most of Europe, except a narrow strip near the Mediterranean was in quite primitive state with respect to science and technology. And the main place where science developed in Antiquity was Alexandria (in modern Egypt).
Science and technology begin to develop intensively in the Western Europe in XVI century, and it is difficult to name one reason for this, but perhaps one of the main reasons is capitalism, and in general, the social environment which made this development possible.
For example, paper, movable print and possibly firearms were invented in China, earlier than in Europe, but invention of paper and print did not trigger a revolution in China of the kind that happened in Europe. Mass production of printed books did not start there. And firearms as soon as they penetrated, or were invented in Europe, very quickly reached higher degree of perfection there. Another example is the invention of steam turbine in the Hellenistic Alexandria. They invented it, but what use did they make of it? These are just three examples, that proper social conditions are crucial for development of science and technology.
Of course, one can ask why these social and economic situation developed in Europe and not elsewhere, but to this there is probably no short answer. One has to analyse the whole history of Europe and other parts of the world to see why it happened in Europe.
It is not true that "Europeans used money while other people used barter". Money was quite common in many places.
On the last question. It is true that Greece was the birthplace of science. But not the only birthplace. Astronomy, for example started in Babylonia. This is not true about technology. All sorts of technology where invented in many places, certainly Greece in not "the birthplace of technology".
In the Hellenistic states (NOT in Greece itself, but on the territories of modern Egypt, Turkey and other parts of Mediterranean) science reached very high degree of development and started to influence technology. But this was a relatively short period, about 200 years, approximately from the time of Macedonian conquest to the conquest of these states by the Roman empire. The Romans were not interested in science, and mostly employed the Greek engineers for technology. Even the severe shortage of the engineers in the empire did not cause any form of engineering education. The crucial thing is that scientists and engineers has very low social status in the Roman empire. Few centuries after that, the development of science in Europe stopped completely, and there was a strong regress in technology.
The Hellenistic science partially survived in the East (Persia, Muslim countries, Byzantia, even in India). Then in XVI century, all this had to be reborn in Europe.
EDIT. I anticipated that my claim that "science was born in ancient Greece" will raise objections. So let me explain. It is a common misunderstanding that "Greeks did not do real science because they did not make experiments". First of all, not every science requires experiments (astronomy, geography requires only observations. And certainly Greeks and Babylonians did and recorded observations). Second, Hellenistic scientists DID do experiments. And not only Archimedes. They created several parts of physics which was closely connected with engineering, namely statics, including hydrostatics, pneumatics, geometric optics, geodesy. Ptolemy described his experiments measuring refraction, for example. Hero of Alexandria constructed automatons and steam engines. Ctezibius constructed water clocks and water organ, etc. A lot of science went to construction of artillery, and not only Archimedes was doing that.
EDIT2. It is common to call Euclid, Hipparchus, Ptolemy and Diophantus "Greeks". They indeed wrote in Greek, and their names sound Greek, but they did not work in Europe. Concerning their "ethnic origin" we have no information at all.
The economic background
The century’s economic expansion owed much to powerful changes that were already under way by 1500. At that time, Europe comprised only between one-third and one-half the population it had possessed about 1300. The infamous Black Death of 1347–50 principally accounts for the huge losses, but plagues were recurrent, famines frequent, wars incessant, and social tensions high as the Middle Ages ended. The late medieval disasters radically transformed the structures of European society—the ways by which it produced food and goods, distributed income, organized its society and state, and looked at the world.
The huge human losses altered the old balances among the classical “factors of production”— labour, land, and capital. The fall in population forced up wages in the towns and depressed rents in the countryside, as the fewer workers remaining could command a higher “scarcity value.” In contrast, the costs of land and capital fell both grew relatively more abundant and cheaper as human numbers shrank. Expensive labour and cheap land and capital encouraged “factor substitution,” the replacement of the costly factor (labour) by the cheaper ones (land and capital). This substitution of land and capital for labour can be seen, for example, in the widespread conversions of arable land to pastures a few shepherds, supplied with capital (sheep) and extensive pastures, could generate a higher return than plowland, intensively farmed by many well-paid labourers.
Capital could also support the technology required to develop new tools, enabling labourers to work more productively. The late Middle Ages was accordingly a period of significant technological advances linked with high capital investment in labour-saving devices. The development of printing by movable metal type substituted an expensive machine, the press, for many human copyists. Gunpowder and firearms gave smaller armies greater fighting power. Changes in shipbuilding and in the development of navigational aids allowed bigger ships to sail with smaller crews over longer distances. By 1500 Europe achieved what it had never possessed before: a technological edge over all other civilizations. Europe was thus equipped for worldwide expansion.
Social changes also were pervasive. With a falling population, the cost of basic foodstuffs (notably wheat) declined. With cheaper food, people in both countryside and city could use their higher earnings to diversify and improve their diets—to consume more meat, dairy products, and beverages. They also could afford more manufactured products from the towns, to the benefit of the urban economies. The 14th century is rightly regarded as the golden age of working people.
Economic historians have traditionally envisioned the falling costs of the basic foodstuffs (cereals) and the continuing firm price of manufactures as two blades of a pair of open scissors. These price scissors diverted income from countryside to town. The late medieval price movements thus favoured urban artisans over peasants and merchants over landlords. Towns achieved a new weight in society the number of towns counting more than 10,000 inhabitants increased from 125 in about 1300 to 154 in 1500, even as the total population was dropping. These changes undermined the leadership of the landholding nobility and enhanced the power and influence of the great merchants and bankers of the cities. The 16th would be a “bourgeois century.”
Culturally, the disasters of the late Middle Ages had the effect of altering attitudes and in particular of undermining the medieval faith that speculative reason could master the secrets of the universe. In an age of ferocious and unpredictable epidemics, the accidental and the unexpected, chance or fate, rather than immutable laws, seemed to dominate the course of human affairs. In an uncertain world, the surest, safest philosophical stance was empiricism. In formal philosophy, this new priority given to the concrete and the observable over and against the abstract and the speculative was known as nominalism. In social life, there was evident a novel emphasis on close observation, on the need to study each changing situation to arrive at a basis for action.
The 16th century thus owed much to trends originating in the late Middle Ages. It would, however, be wrong to view its history simply as a playing out of earlier movements. New developments proper to the century also shaped its achievements. Those developments affected population money and prices agriculture, trade, manufacturing, and banking social and political institutions and cultural attitudes. Historians differ widely in the manner in which they structure and relate these various developments they argue over what should be regarded as causes and what as effects. But they are reasonably agreed concerning the general nature of these trends.
Germany has been an academic powerhouse for a long time, and as such education is the backbone of Germany’s technological advances. According to The Federal Ministry of Education and Research, “the goal is for good ideas to be translated quickly into innovative products and services. This is because innovative solutions are the factors that drive our prosperity and support our quality of life.”
As of 2014, tuition fees for universities were no longer charged in Germany. Dorothee Stapelfeldt, senator for science in Hamburg, summed it up as follows: “tuition fees are socially unjust. They particularly discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up studies. It is the core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard, free of charge in Germany.” Not only did this attract more German students, but it also led to an influx of international students. Deutsches Studentenwerk found that nearly 12% of all students in Germany are international students. In American universities the proportion of international students amounts to around four percent, and in Australia up to 20%.
Why was Europe so technologically and culturally advanced? - History
In the nineteenth century, Western Europe was the economic powerhouse of the world. Its productive power was unmatched. This dominance was achieved at some point between 1500 and 1800, but pinpointing exactly when is a difficult task. This is made clear when we try and compare Europe’s economic development with that of China. In the period before 1500, China was a strong economic power – probably the world’s most advanced economy at the time – but by the nineteenth century it had been thoroughly eclipsed by Western Europe. When exactly did Europe pull ahead, and why did this happen? How did Europe, rather than China, end up ruling the world?
The traditional explanation given is a cultural one. It argues that Europeans have (or had) a way of engaging with the world that was better suited to economic growth, conquest and dynamism. Landes, for example, has asserted that ‘the Chinese lacked range, focus, and above all, curiosity’, and that ‘Unlike the Europeans, they were not motivated by greed and passion.’ Braudel asserted that the Chinese ‘only half-heartedly shared the capitalist mentality of the West.’ Weber, argued that the ‘Protestant work ethic’ was ideally suited to economic success.
But there are serious problems with this argument. For one, it is rather brash to assume that everyone on an entire subcontinent thinks and acts in the same way. Secondly, there is evidence that the Chinese were just as enterprising and driven by greed and passion as Europeans. The seventeenth-century Zheng family trade empire, for example, operated ruthlessly and with fierce commercial passion. They captured Taiwan from the Dutch, and drove the Dutch out of many south-east Asian markets. Nor was a desire for luxury the sole preserve of Europeans: Chinese guidebooks on conspicuous consumption actually appeared before those in Europe.
As Rosenbery and Birdzell have lamented, ‘The great difficulty of identifying the sources of Western economic growth has led to some psychological explanations which are little short of desperate.’ They would be justified in using stronger words than ‘desperate’. This is a lazy, un-analytical assertion of Western cultural supremacy. It’s not just the Chinese who suffer in these accounts: those Europeans who were not at the forefront also have their failings attributed to unsubstantiated cultural inadequacies. Kindleberger’s history of world economic growth has attributed Spanish economic underachievement to a host of factors, including the Spanish ‘disdain for work’, ‘strong hatreds’, and ‘the Inquisition’, but does not explain how each of them would have hindered economic growth. His list of crude national stereotypes reads more like inane racial prejudice than insightful economic and historical reasoning. These lazy prejudices, masquerading as ‘cultural explanations’ lack evidence and even the most perfunctory explanatory framework to support them. Our brief survey of the ramshackle evidence for Chinese cultural inferiority suggests that cultural differences alone – real or imagined – are not enough to explain the differences that emerged between Europe and China.
Let’s take a step back and look at the underlying economic frameworks at play. Before the European rise to dominance, the basic rules of the economic game were the same for both Europe and China. Both economies were limited by the productivity of the land. The economist Lavoisier noted that ‘Commerce and industry can only use the material which it (agriculture) has provided so that it is the original source, the almost unique source, of all national wealth.’ Adam Smith noted that ‘The town, in which there neither is nor can be any reproduction of substances, may very properly be said to gain its whole wealth and subsistence from the country.’ In both Europe and China, photosynthesis was the sole source of food and fuel. But photosynthesis is inefficient at capturing solar energy, meaning that there was little stored energy that could be accessed later on, except in trees.
With a finite area of land, if more of its area is devoted to one productive endeavour, inevitably, less land can be devoted to others. Ricardo observed that this led to diminishing marginal returns, and stated that ‘the land being limited in quantity, … with every increased portion of of capital employed on it there will be a decreased rate of production.’ This meant that economic growth was inherently limited – this is known as negative feedback. This type of economy has been called an ‘organic economy’. An organic economy is dependent for its energy needs upon flows of energy from photosynthesis, without significant access to stocks of energy. (For a thorough and concise explanation of the nature of organic and inorganic economies, see Wrigley’s ‘The Divergence of England‘) For as long as Europe and China were both organic economies, neither was going to achieve economic dominance, given the negative feedback inherent in this system.
So what do we make of the ‘discovery’ of the Americas? Was this as important as academics like Pomerantz have asserted? (Whilst I disagree with Pomerantz on this count, his book ‘The Great Divergence‘ is one of the strongest in the field.) The discovery of the Americas increased European wealth, but it didn’t change these fundamental constraints. The Americas provided an historically unprecedented abundance of resources to Europe. Europeans cultivated land-intensive crops, such as sugar, cotton and timber, allowing them to supply products that were increasingly expensive to produce domestically. This access to resources made it profitable to expand, increasing production and volumes of shipping, driving down transaction costs per unit and making further expansion worthwhile. But the economic exploitation of overseas land areas could not solve the fundamental limitations of the economy. Whilst New World silver and resources may have indeed sharpened European Smithian dynamics and given a boost to growth, they could not challenge the limitations of the pre-industrial economy, constrained by the land. On its own the New World simply enlarged the board, rather than changing the rules of the game.
For most of the period between 1500 and 1850, European and Chinese economies were both locked into this framework of limited growth. The organic economy could not provide sufficient access to energy to perpetuate industrial processes and growth. This is exemplified by experience in both regions. The Dolgyne blast furnace in Wales, built in 1717, only operated for an average of fifteen weeks a year due to a lack of fuel by the start of the seventeenth century, Danish iron production had halted because of a lack of available energy. In China, by the mid-Ming period, timber supplies neared depletion, leading to the change in salt boiling techniques to use less wood and (arguably) the development of the wok. In the eighteenth century, much of the junk construction trade moved away from the Yangzi Delta, and grasses and dung were burned to avoid using scarce timber. These examples illustrate the fundamental limitations on energy utilisation, and therefore on economic growth, in both economies while they remained almost entirely subservient to the yearly productivity of the land for their energy supplies. By the early eighteenth century, areas in both continents were clearly advanced enough to feel the pinch of environmental limitations, yet neither was able to transcend them. In short, up until the eighteenth century, neither Europe nor China had pulled ahead.
This still leaves us with three large questions: how was economic dominance to be obtained? How were the limitations of the organic economy to be overcome? How did Europe achieve dominance, and how early can we see the wheels turning?
To enable the economy to move beyond organic limitations, a stock of energy was required. The use of fossil fuels, and access to their stocks of energy, represented a move from reliance upon inherently limited flows of energy (dependent upon annual photosynthesis) to partial dependence on stocks of energy. This represented a fundamental break with all past economic experience. This new type of economy is the ‘mineral economy’. The economy had previously been constrained by the productivity of the land, but this was no longer a restraint upon growth because energy could be obtained from fossil fuels as well. These stocks of energy also rendered negative feedback, and the limits to the gains of division of labour, less important: the power they granted allowed output per worker to increase, affording near-unlimited potential gains, at least for as long as the coal lasted. They also facilitated energy-intensive industrial processes which would not have been possible without such an energy source. The organic economy had been transcended, and this transformation happened in Europe first.
Before getting into the complex task of exploring why, let’s quickly have a look at some of the truly awe-inspiring statistics of European economic dominance in the nineteenth century, to see just how powerful these stocks of energy were. By 1810 British coal output was 20 million tons, which provided an amount of energy which Wrigley asserts was ‘roughly equivalent to the quantity of energy theoretically available for capture by the sun’s rays by photosynthesis each year.’ The economic dominance that this afforded was indicated by the massive and sustained, previously inconceivable, increases in output over the course of the nineteenth century. ‘European production of pig iron increased 16-fold between 1800 and 1870, coal output 14-fold, raw cotton consumption 21-fold and railway mileage between 1840 and 1870 some 36-fold… European exports in constant prices rose twelvefold in 1800-1870.’ The ability of European nations to interfere in China’s political and economic affairs in the nineteenth century was clear consequence of this rise to leadership.
So why did Europe achieve economic dominance? Or, to be more precise, why did Western Europe begin using coal on a wide scale whilst China did not? I argue that this happened because the Western European agricultural sector freed up workers for use elsewhere in a way that China’s did not, because Western Europe had not experienced China’s geopolitical handicap, and, more importantly, because of the dynamic European engagement with supply problems that led to a self-perpetuating progression down the path to the mineral economy. China, whilst impressively innovative, was focused more on the perfection of the organic economy than on transcending it.
The path taken by Western European agriculture enabled its emergence from the limitations of the organic economy, whereas China’s did not. In Europe, increased labour productivity freed up workers to apply their labour to non-agrarian pursuits. Between 1600 and 1820, the number of surplus people fed by every hundred workers in agriculture increased in several Western European countries. In England and Wales it rose from 42 to 148, in the Netherlands from 119 (in 1670) to 177, and in France from 45 to 70.
Chinese agriculture, on the other hand, was focused on increasing land productivity (ie making each unit of land produce more) rather than increasing labour productivity (ie making each labourer produce more). This meant that Chinese agriculture remained strongly tied to the organic paradigm and its limitations. In the Yangzi, increased output from the land was obtained by diminishing returns to labour: from an index of 100 in 1700, output per capita fell to 74 by 1750 and 70 by 1800. As Brenner and Isett assert, ‘The trend to rising labor productivity in agriculture in England was the direct opposite of the trend to declining labor productivity that obtained in the Yangzi delta…’
The European agricultural advantage was not at feeding its people, as China was able to support a denser population than Europe through the eighteenth century. Rather, it was at allowing its people to move outside of agricultural work, and beyond a world limited by the restraints on agricultural output and photosynthesis. But whilst the agricultural differences were an essential prerequisite to Europe’s rise from the organic paradigm, they did not bring it about. To enter the mineral economy required not only workers to run its infrastructure but access to stocks of energy and the technology to use them.
Both China and Europe were well endowed with coal, but China’s was in the wrong place. China’s coal supply was located overwhelmingly in the north and west: 98 percent of China’s coal supplies were located to the north of the Yangzi, and the western areas held just under 90 percent of its coal. This coal was utilised by the iron industry that existed there until around 1100, but invasions, occupations, civil wars, flood and plague led to instability that halted the industry. By the time stability had returned, after 1420, the demographic and economic centre of the country had shifted to the south, to the Yangzi Delta. Transportation of the now-distant coal was a serious problem, one that the Chinese economy did not overcome. Even at the end of the nineteenth century, coal use was generally very localised: transporting coal from Qinghua to the Yellow River, 50 km away, led to a fivefold price rise, leading Wright to assert that ‘transport costs were the single most important constraint on the growth of coal consumption.’ Areas in the north Jiangsu could have potentially reached the Yangzi Delta, but in Qing times the cost of coal doubled before it reached the canal port. It therefore seems clear that whilst China had large reserves of coal, and had shown the capacity to utilise them long before Europe had begun to do so, unfavourable geopolitical circumstances led to coal’s potential being overshadowed by transport costs.
Europe had similar problems with coal supply. Britain was well-endowed with coal, but transport networks were so primitive that the price of coal could double for every ten miles transported over land. The distances that European coal had to travel were much smaller than those in China, but, nonetheless, the way that the European economy dealt with the problem of coal supply helps explain why Europe rose to economic leadership by the middle of the nineteenth century.
The close relationship between the market system, scientific tradition and invention in Europe was crucial to its rise to economic leadership. The market encouraged inventors to tackle certain technological or logistical problems, the solving of which led to an increase in technological capabilities that benefited the economy as a whole. In this way, the steam engine was conceived as a response to the problem of coal supply, allowing access to otherwise inaccessible coal by increasing the potential depth of mines by pumping out water. Similarly, entrepreneurs observed that given that transport links between mines and towns were poor and that coal was in demand, improving transport infrastructure could be profitable. This led them to focus on improving transport links, which further facilitated the expansion of coal production. As a result, between 1700 and 1750 British coal output rose by 70 percent between 1750 and 1830 it rose by a further 500 percent. As steam engine technology improved it became more efficient and began to be put to other uses. This drove up the demand for coal and further encouraged improvements to steam technology. Thus the demand and supply of coal were locked in a positive cycle, powering the economy out of the organic paradigm as coal use and mineral energy-harnessing technologies spread. This was a powerful, self-reinforcing technological path that ended in the mineral economy. This was the true dynamic of European exceptionalism.
China was also innovative, but in the wrong direction. The innovation-minded Chinese state aimed for static efficiency through the spread of agricultural best practice. ‘The Chinese imperial government generated and diffused new technologies in rice cultivation, including better (drought-resistant) varieties… and encouraged the use of cotton, better implements, and hydraulic techniques… The authors of the great treatises on agriculture such as Wang Chen and Hsü Kuang Chhi, as well as the inventor of the use of mulberry tree bark in papermaking, were government bureaucrats.’ State measures to spread knowledge have led Maddison to even conclude that ‘the gap between best-practice and average practice was probably narrower than it was in the polycentric state system of Europe.’ In the seventeenth century, Champa rice was introduced, which ripened in three months rather than six or nine. This period was reduced to two months, and in the eighteenth century it was reduced to just forty days. In the early nineteenth century a thirty-day variety became available. Clearly China remained innovative, but its developments were mainly agrarian, in stark contrast to the European experience. Europe alone took the self-reinforcing journey down the road to the mineral economy, which is why it rose to economic leadership by the mid-nineteenth century.
The imperial state need not have been an inhibitor of innovation leading to the mineral economy – indeed, China developed the compass, gunpowder and the blast furnace well before Europe – but by the eighteenth century, the rate of non-agrarian innovation in China had dried up.
What went wrong with Chinese innovation? Geography and inefficient markets seem to be the main culprits. Perhaps the blame should be cast on inefficient markets for not sending out adequate incentive signals, or on unfavourable geopolitical circumstances that meant that coal was an impractical distance from the economic core. Or perhaps the Chinese state, so concerned to promote agrarian development, should be censured for not having tried to promote industrial development. Whatever the reason we can certainly conclude that for China to have achieved the results that Europe did would have been even more exceptional than what came to pass in Europe.
In conclusion, we have seen that explanations of the European rise to economic leadership based around relative cultural values or mentalities are highly flawed and unsatisfactory, and that the European exploitation of overseas territories cannot explain Europe’s rise to leadership. Rather, economic leadership could only be achieved through the utilisation of mineral stores of energy, allowing a change in economic paradigm. For most of the period the Chinese and European economies operated within a shared organic paradigm, subject to the same limitations. Facilitated by Western European agricultural dynamics that differed to those in China, a combination of entrepreneurialism and science funnelled Europe down a route of self-reinforcing technological change that led to an escape from the limitations of the organic economy. China, on the other hand, tackled the organic economy’s problems head on rather than transcending them, and thus focused its efforts on land productivity. Europe was aided by geography, with coal within reach of its most developed areas, but even then, problems caused by the cost of transport needed to be overcome. That the Europeans achieved this, whereas the Chinese did not, is down to a combination of Chinese geographic bad luck and the entrepreneurial, inventive market system operating in Europe.
The answer to why Europe rather than China rose to economic leadership by the mid-nineteenth century therefore lies somewhere between European geographical good fortune, Chinese geo-political misfortune, and the focus of European inventiveness as compared to that of China, which led to a feedback loop that allowed some western European economies to escape the organic paradigm. However good a country’s institutions and however strong the market’s incentives, without a change of economic paradigm there could be no economic leadership. But it was through the functioning of incentives and the institutions of growth that this paradigm shift was achieved. That the European market had these incentives tied so closely to invention and innovation was the secret of its success. Without inorganic energy utilisation Europe could not have risen, but even with favourable coal supplies its rise was not guaranteed.
Europe therefore rose to economic leadership by the middle of the nineteenth century because of the powerful link between innovation and market incentives, which allowed it to realise the potential of energy stored in coal.
68 thoughts on &ldquo7 Most Advanced Ancient Civilizations in the World&rdquo
A great selection of places, that I’d absolutely love to visit! Thank you.
I think an obvious one is the Roman empire and I think some of the ancient empires in the Middle East left some impressive legacies.
wow, very nice selection! If I make an exception with Mayan civilization, the one that I am most attracted with is old Egypt, never had opportunity to travel there, but hope some day I will.
Old mysteries of humanity, makes me think how come we are here right now in this point of civilization!?
I think that the Greeks should be a little higher up on that list with the invention of the Antikythera mechanism with was essentially the first computer. It was used to calculate astronomical positions. Also I’m not even sure the Osirian civilization (whatever that is) even existed, or the Rama civilization. I can’t find a single reliable reference to either save some crackpots top ten list. I mean think about it if there was an ancient civilization out that that had or showed signs of using electricity that it would be referenced by…well everyone? Finally Atlantis was a metaphorical story Plato made up to teach his disciples about the dangers of advancing beyond ones means. Also the Greeks and mayans where great astronomers, astrology is about how the placement of the planets and the stars determine whether or not you’re going to be a jerk or mild mannered depending on what month you were born. Research first please.
Where is Angkor?
Where is Pagan?
Amazing pictures !! amazing post.
Nice post with excellent pictures. The pictures alone would make me want to go there, because they show how much character the place has!
The author is either a complete moron or an eighth grader writing a paper on a tight time-line.
The asterisk at the bottom stating that 28% of this article is “disputed” should be enough to point out that the author is a blatant hippy as she left out the Roman empire or the Carthaginians in favor of two fictional cultures and three others that are near and dear to new age con artists.
Plus the fact that the two empires she includes in the western hemisphere were still in existence until fairly recently smacks of racism.
About the maya cities, I would like to remark that Copan in Honduras is probably the best place for people to see sculpture and impressive artistic stonework from the classical maya era. It is often called the athens of the new world for its artistic richness, along with being the only maya site where a real temple still covered in stucco and original painting can be found. theres actually a replica of the whole temple built inside the museum, and theres a lovely spanish colonial town just outside the archeological park.
one thing left me thinking.. who were the Osirians? i had never heard of them. pardon my ignorance but I would really like to know more about this culture.
So fascinating, the ancient Maya and Chinese civilizations are the ones that attract me the most. I’ve only visited the Great Wall of China so far, heading to India next, very curious of what I will find!
You need to check your facts my friend. Coming from someone that studies this stuff everyday, your forgot the Romans, Persians, Mesopotamia. The Old World Empires and civilizations should be on this list, not the Andean South American sites (Inka), which hardly rival the powers of the China, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Rome. Yes, they share some fundamental similarities, but no one could dispute the power of the Romans or the Persians.
where the hell did u put ancient ethiopia ?which is cradle of civilization and man kind
You didn’t mean Assyrians did you?
And how about some more of the great African Empires?
Those of you who are saying the Roman Empire…it was not ancient, firstly. It was Classical. several of these are classical and post-classical eras as well (china, maya, greece).
Secondly, the Roman Empire (not counting Byzantine “Rome”) only lasted a about 300 years before it began to dissolve. Prior to that it was a republic, and prior to that it was a city-state within the land controlled by the Etruscans.
3. The “Rama” are generally called Mohenjo-Dharrans, or Harrappans. Where the author got Rama, I am not sure.
4. Atlantis in generally considered allegorical to Crete and the Minoans, or the “Sea People”. The Osirian civilization mentioned above is the author (erroneously) combining the different Mediterranean civilizations like the Phoenecians, Minoans, perhaps Cypresians, and other peoples of the Mediterranean islands. Many of which WERE exceedingly advanced for their time.
Also, the Inca were not ancient. At all. There was, however, an ancient empire in the land they later claim to live on, though I sadly cannot recall the name. There were several others in south and central America in ancient days as well.
Lastly, the advancement of Greece depends on when you are talking about in their history. Greece had a “Dark Ages”, during which time they were not technologically advanced at all. It is in fact likely this exact lapse in their power for several centuries which allowed neighboring civilizations to expand and hold against the Helenes. Hellenic Greece never became very large or powerful, rarely holding more than the Greek peninsula and small parts of Illeria. It was not until the Hellenistic greeks, long past “Ancient”, that they became a dominant empire.
Great list and pictures! These are 7 with very visible remains and hopefully I’ll be able to visit them all. The Uiger civilization of the Gobi Desert may also belong on the list.
very invigorating, fantastic!.
Inclusion of the Incas on this list is mind boggling. The Incas would have been amazingly impressive if they’d existed two thousand years before their time, but in 1200 AD? Nah.
I have to say , this list is full of historical inaccuracies, misconceptions about myths so that they are presented as facts , and outright falsehoods. Personally I would place greek civilization at the top of the list (from the classical to late hellenistic periods), part of this includes their vast cultural influence, from western europe to india. I dont know about the others, i suppose i’d place china as 2nd for the period known as antiquity, and perhaps india or rome as 3rd. With rome im referring to the republican era untill the end of the western empire. I suppose i am excluding the bronze age from my edited list, because that over-complicates things. I must admit that harappan civilization was very advanced for its time, with clay pipe plumbing and centrally designed cities being in common use. Finally, although this may make many people who hold romantic ideals about the mystical native american civilizations who were so advanced and ingenious, I must say that in general their achievements pale in comparison to those of old world civilizations. I’m not claiming that the meso americans ect were inherently stupid, just that their rate of technological development was vastly superceded by old world civilizations in general. They were no better than europeans ect before columbus came, they fought wars and massacred each other in great numbers just like any other people. Finally, althought im probably somewhat biased because i have western european heritage, I think the celtic peoples of europe would be included in such a list. Im not claiming that “celt” means a race, ethnicity, or individual empire. Just a complex of different cultural traits. Unfortunately rome’s genocidal wars allowed for a very thorough destruction of the achievements of celtic groups. Check out terry jone’s barbarians series for information about new discoveries about the celts, in particular the gauls. Although he is also a little biased, all his claims are based on solid evidence.
I meant my comment about meso americans would make the people with ahistorical notions of their lives angry.
Don’t forget the wonders of the Orkney and Shetland Islands – Skara Brae on Orkney pre-dates the pyramids. Some other sites have only been discovered in the last 10 – 15 years. It’s a “MUST SEE” if you are visiting Scotland!! Don’t waste your time looking for “Nessie”.
These empires and choices are most interesting. I would love to visit and by the way I am only 14 years old and I am a very smart and know all about these empires.
When it comes to Civalisations most of the developed paled skinned world tend to be racist and glorify the Civs of Europe & Asia while Poo-poo on and oppress the African, Native American and Middle Eastern Civalisations cause of the color of their skin. Keep doing that and we will get a North vs South Nuclear World War 3 where everyone will lose and become extinct like the dinosaurs.
Where is Mycenae? Where is Knossos? Where is Akrotiri? since 4000 b.c?
Rama? Where’d you get that one from? You meant the Indus Valley Civilization, didn’t you?
nuclear weapons have been used during rama civilisation but i wonder why chian stands first.vimanas(aircrafts),bhrama astra(nuclear weapons) have been used
Ive been to Chitchin Itza as well as Coba and Tulum in Mexico.. the amount of accuracy they used in buildings especially in regards to the positions of stars, moon and sun is awesome and the construction puts most modern builders to shame… no coffee breaks and plumbers crack for the Mayans :P
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Mesopotamia , is the cradle of the civilizations
Egypt holds a wealth of attraction for those seeking adventure, mystique, ancient roots, and relaxation on the beach. Egypt, the mystic land of the Pharaohs. A land unequaled for its majestic monuments and authentic treasures of diversified Pharaonic, Greco-Roman, Coptic Christian and Islamic blend of cultures. Mediterranean beaches Red-Sea fascinating underwater life, mountains and deserts, memorable landscapes alongside the river Nile, bestowed with nature’s gift of a mild climate, provides a choice of holiday resorts for everyone from all over the world.
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The documents related to ancient civilizations of India doesn’t exist because all information were spread in orally not in written script.
Good post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon every day.
It’s always interesting to read articles from
other writers and practice a little something from their sites.
WTF what about the Indus valley civilization. Harappa, Mohinjadaro. ringing any bells. Indus valley civilization is considered the most ancient … rewrite your article.
I’d absolutely love it. Thank you
Can you add the Aztecs and Mississippians? It would really help my daughter with her homework. Cause she has to know the least advanced to the advanced out of Maya, Inca, Aztecs, Mississippians
Antediluvian Maps: Impossible charts according to mainstream scholars
Maps like the one by Piri Reis have been validated by scholars who remain baffled and cannot explain their precision and level of detail. Some of them were created as if somehow, someone was able to see the land from the air before drawing the charts…
It is noteworthy to mention that the Piri Reis map was in fact created by other much older maps from different regions around the globe. But what do maps like the one from Piri Reis tell us? Well, they offer conclusive evidence that in the distant past, civilizations with incredible cartographical knowledge existed on Earth. It seems that these ancient civilizations had seen parts of the world which today are covered in Ice: Antarctica for example, meaning that whoever created these charts must have seen these parts of the world when Earth’s climate was very different, a period in the history of our planet predating the last ice age.
The Piri Reis map was composed around 1520 and in addition to displaying Antarctica without ice, it accurately depicts the geography of the American Continent with such a precision that it looks as if it was put together with the aid of aerial photography. Interestingly, this map was examined by the US Hydrographic Office of the Navy, where its authenticity was confirmed. The map was proven genuine and is so accurate that it was purportedly used to correct errors in some modern maps.
But… Who mapped the Queen Maud Land of Antarctic 6000 years ago? Which unknown civilization had the technology or the need to do that?
The geographical information contained in the map indicates that some of its source material date back more than 5,000 years. While the Piri Reis map is not a map that is believed to predate the Great Deluge, the map was created using maps that are over 5000 years old.
An interesting letter issued by the USAF speaks about the Piri Resi map where LORENZO W. BURROUGHS Captain, USAF Chief, Cartographic Section 8th reconnaissance Technical Sqdn (SAC) Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts writes: The agreement of the Piri Reis Map with the seismic profile of this area made by the Norwegian-British-Swedish Expedition of 1949, supported by your solution of the grid, places beyond a reasonable doubt the conclusion that the original source maps must have been made before the present Antarctic ice cap covered the Queen Maud Land coasts.
However, other maps like the Zeno Map draws our attention since it predates the Piri Reis map, outlining the coast of modern-day Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, and Germany. In addition to that, the Zeno maps just happen to include the exact longitude and latitude of a number of islands. Why is this important? Well, it is because in order to determine longitude you would need to use a chronometer, a device that was invented in 1765. Even more incredibly, the Zeno Map appear to depict the topography of modern-day Greenland free of glaciers which means that someone had to have seen Greenland prior to the ice age.
“It appears that accurate information has been passed down from people to people. It appears that the charts must have originated with a people unknown and they were passed on, perhaps by the Minoans and the Phoenicians, who were, for a thousand years and more, the greatest sailors of the ancient world. We have evidence that they were collected and studied in the great library of Alexandria (Egypt) and the compilations of them were made by the geographers who worked there. Piri Reis had probably come into possession of charts once located in the Library of Alexandria, the well-known most important library of the ancient times,” — Dr. Charles Hapgood –Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings (Turnstone books, London 1979, preface.
Even more interesting are the cartographical charts created by Iehudi Ibn ben Zara. His Map drawn around 1487 depicts certain regions of Britain covered in Glaciers. The map also displays islands in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. These islands exist still today, the only underwater, suggesting that whatever maps were used to create the cartographical chart of 1487, were from a time when our planet’s geology was much different, a time that perhaps could be traced back to the antediluvian period.
These ancient maps offer too many enigmas and questions and provide little to no answers at all, suggesting that in the distant past, going back at least 10,000 – 12,000 years advanced ancient civilizations existed on Earth, erecting incredible cities, accomplishing incredible feats, and exploring the planet with incredible precision.
Why Has 99 Percent of the Technological Progress by Modern Humans Come in the Last 10,000 Years?
This question reads: Modern humans are estimated to be about 200,000 years old, but it seems that 99 percent of technological progress has occurred in the last 10,000 years. What were we doing before that?
Answer by Pratyush Rathore:
Suppose, I give you a magic coin worth 1 cent, which multiplies itself 100 times every year.
At the end of 1 year, you would have a negligible amount: $1.
At the end of 2 years, you would have a very small sum: $100.
At the end of 3 years, you would have barely enough: $10,000.
At the end of 4 years, you start seeing a modest $1 million dollar heap.
At the end of 5 years, you would have a good $100 million.
Now, at the end of the fifth year, you come to me and say, “I have kept the coin with me for 5 years, but 99 percent of the money it made came in last year. What was the coin doing before that?”
So, to answer in one word: compounding.
Short answer: We took tens of thousands of years to settle down (starting from the migration in Africa). After we settled down, we discovered ways to domesticate plants about 12,000 years ago, discovered metals about 8,000 years ago and started writing things about 5,000 years ago. Each of these steps helped us bring the humans together and build ideas on top of another. Let us look at some of the major events in human history.
- Migration from Africa: The modern humans are believed to have evolved about 200,000 years ago. ( Recent African origin of modern humans. ) For the first 100,000 years, we remained there until some unexplained sequence of events started forcing them outward. Then humans started walking, and it took multiple generations for them to survive the deserts Africa to reach Europe and Asia, and later the Americas. Imagine walking the Sahara or Arabian desert with no shoes, water cans, or camels. Only when we started settling did we have the time and resources to build something that could be passed on to the future generations. Without that settlement, great ideas would have died with the person or the tribe. Our first major settling down happened around 12,000 B.C. ( Sedentism)
- Low Population: Until about 10,000 BC, the world population never exceeded 15 million and mostly was around 1 million (Urban World History ). The present population of the world is 7 billion, and 1 million is comparable to the population of a medium-sized city. When you have just a couple of million people spread in this big wide world, there is little that humanity could collectively build. Even if we assume that early human being could be as productive as us, their civilization could produce less than 1/1000 of what our society could do.
- Life Expectancy: From that point until 20th century, we had a very low life expectancy (about 30 years). Imagine if we all died by the time we reached 30, how much could we learn from our parents and how much could we teach our kids? Given the low life expectancy of early humans, there was not much time to learn and teach. We just started randomly doing whatever we could to survive. ( Life expectancy )
- Use of fire: Early humans didn’t find a way to use the fire in a controlled way. This means we often lived in a dark (no fire means no lights), cold, and scary place ( Control of fire by early humans ).It was about 125,000 years ago that we started using fire in a controlled way, and it took a lot of trial and error.
- No sophisticated tools and domesticated animals: Early humans used primarily stone tools, and until about 50,000 years ago, these were quite crude. They helped a little bit in hunting, but didn’t take us far. We had to wait until 6000 B.C. to get our first metal: gold ( History of Metals ). With metals we could tackle a lot more elements and make far more tools. We didn’t have any animals to help us out. We first started domesticating dogs and later sheep, pigs, horses, etc. Each of the domestication waves took thousands of years of trial and error ( Domestication ).
- Civilization allowed us spare time. By 12,000 B.C., many groups of humans found habitable regions to grow their tribe. They had found ways ways to domesticate a few plants and animals and had made superior tools. As large groups of humans started gathering and work year-round in the same place, we found ways to share and transmit ideas. Trade was discovered, and humans suddenly found spare time to do stuff ( Civilization ).
Innovation/Invention requires a lot of trial and error and the ability to build on previous results. Until a few thousand years ago, these experiments were local, and there was little we could learn from others’ experiments. Thus, a guy in Ethiopia might have been trying to master fire control even 5,000 years after a guy in Sweden has already mastered it. There was no easy way to transfer ideas given the lack of wheel (to enable quick movement), writing systems, broadcast communication, etc. The population was also too low to improve the odds of experimentation. Lastly, we were too focused on survival to afford us the time to innovate. Agriculture liberated us from the focus on the daily search for food.
Finally, we are constantly discovering more about our past, and our knowledge of our ancestors is not complete. A hundred years ago, we didn’t know about the magnificent Indus Valley civilization and knew little of Mesopotamia or Incas. New discoveries are constantly pushing back the known history, and I would not be surprised if we discover more complex civilizations from 10000 BC that have just been lost due to the passage of time.
Europe is the second smallest of the seven continents covering roughly 2% of the earth's surface. The name 'Europe' has long been thought to have been derived from the ancient myth of Zeus and Europa. According to this tale, the great god Zeus, seeing the lovely Phoenician princess Europa bathing (or, according to other versions, playing with her handmaidens) by the seashore, transformed himself into a magnificent white bull and slowly approached her from the sea. So gentle and sweet was this bull that Europa placed garlands of flowers around his neck, petted him and then climbed onto his back when, much to her surprise, the bull ran off across the surface of the seas, abducting her to the isle of Crete. On Crete Zeus and Europa became lovers and she bore him three famous sons. Her family back in Phonecia, distraught at her disappearance, sent her brothers in search of her, each one finally being unsuccessful in his quest but each founding important cities and lending their names to various regions around the Aegean (Thebes being one example, originally known as Cadmea after Europa's brother Cadmus).
Herodotus, however, does not believe the tale of the Phoenician princess had anything to do with the naming of the continent, writing in Book Four of his Histories, “Another thing that puzzles me is why three distinct women's names should have been given to what is really a single land-mass…nobody knows where it got its name from, or who gave it, unless we are to say that it came from Europa, the Tyrian woman, and before that was nameless like the rest. This, however, is unlikely for Europa was an Asiatic and never visited the country which we now call Europe.”
Theories regarding the origin of the name 'Europe' range from it being of Greek origin meaning “wide gazing”, a reference to the breadth of the shoreline as seen from the sea or from the Phoenician for “evening”, as in the place where the sun would set. Today, as it was in Herodotus' time, no one can say for certain where the name 'Europe' originated. To the ancient Greeks, the Aegean sea and environs were the center of the world. The Phonecians regularly sailed across and up the Atlantic to harvest tin from Europe at Cornwall but, to the Greeks, Europe was a dark continent (in the same way that 19th and early 20th century CE Europeans would later view Africa).
Culture, on even the most basic level, had been ongoing in Europe since at least 20,000 BCE as evidenced by cave paintings (the most famous being the Cave of Lascaux complex in modern-day France) and by 5000 BCE hierarchical societies had begun to emerge and peas were cultivated, evidence of a sturdy agricultural society. Even so, to the Greeks, the people of Europe, more so than any other non-Greeks, were barbarians (from the Greek barbarophonos, “of incomprehensible speech”, a word first coined by Homer in his Iliad, Book II) who banded together diverse tribes such as the Balts, Slavs, Albanians, Italics and, best known, the Celts (who included the Gauls and the Germanic tribes).
By the year 4300 BCE megalithic tombs were in use in Europe, by 3500 farming was widespread across the face of the continent and by 2000 bronze work was introduced by the Wessex culture of present-day Britain. In 1860 BCE the construction of the impressive and mysterious Stonehenge was begun. Even so, such accomplishments were not so impressive to the Greeks nor, later, to the Romans. As late as 78 CE, the Roman historian Tacitus refers to the Britons under the governorship of his father-in-law Agricola as “rude, scattered and warlike people” to whom the Romans, of necessity, had to bring cultivation and civilization. Earlier, Julius Caesar had the same opinion of the Gauls, referring to them as little more than animals in his description of the massacre of the Ubii tribe by the Rhine.
In his The Gallic Wars he devotes as much space to a description of the Alces (elks) of Europe as he does to the Ubii in any important way writing of the elk that “their shape and dappled coat are like those of goats but they are rather larger, have stunted horns and legs without joints” and then goes on to give the earliest narrative we have of what would come to be known as “cow tipping” as the Romans would hunt the elk by pushing them over while they slept standing up and killing them easily because they were too large to raise themselves back up. Even so, it is impossible to argue that Caesar brought nothing of consequence to the people of Gaul and, by extension, Europe. The historian Durant writes,
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For three hundred years Gaul remained a Roman province, prospered under the Roman peace, learned and transformed the Latin language, and became the channel through which the culture of classic antiquity passed into northern Europe. Doubtless neither Caesar nor his contemporaries foresaw the immense consequences of his bloody triumph. He thought he had saved Italy, won a province and forged an army he did not suspect that he was the creator of French civilization.
The Romans brought their civilization, not just to Gaul (later France and part of Italy) but to the whole of Europe, providing innovations such as paved roads, indoor plumbing, fortified cities of great administrative efficiency and culture and, of course, their language, slowly 'civilizing' the disparate tribes of the various European regions. Tacitus writes of the efforts of Agricola in Britain to establish schools to spread the knowledge of Latin and his encouragement of the populace to build temples and to regard personal hygiene as a matter of importance in the use of public baths. Tacitus continues, “By degrees the charms of vice gained admission to British hearts baths, porticoes and elegant banquets grew into vogue and the new manners, which in reality only served to sweeten slavery, were by the unsuspecting Britons called the arts of polished humanity.”
Even so, not every Briton appreciated Roman culture equally nor accepted its civilizing touch easily as evidenced by the rebellion of Queen Boudicca of the Iceni tribe (only the most famous among many) in 60/61 CE which resulted in over 70,000 Romans slain by Britons before she was defeated by Paulinus. Still, for over three hundred years, Roman rule obtained in Europe and, without doubt, contributed greatly to what the various countries of the continent are today.
Sometimes size isn't a plus. The US has over 10m credit card terminals and 1.2bn cards, according to Smart Card Alliance, an industry group that tries to educate and push for the widespread adoption of this technology in the US. The Alliance estimates that less than 2% of Americans have smart cards. It's difficult to get such a large market to adopt. As the Wall Street Journal reported last week, Target actually tried to roll out smart cards from 2001-04, but the rest of the market didn't follow.
Why Did Europe Conquer the World?
Between 1492 and 1914, Europeans conquered 84 percent of the globe. But why did Europe establish global dominance, when for centuries the Chinese, Japanese, Ottomans, and South Asians were far more advanced? In Why Did Europe Conquer the World?, Philip Hoffman demonstrates that conventional explanations—such as geography, epidemic disease, and the Industrial Revolution—fail to provide answers. Arguing instead for the pivotal role of economic and political history, Hoffman shows that if certain variables had been different, Europe would have been eclipsed, and another power could have become master of the world. Hoffman sheds light on the two millennia of economic, political, and historical changes that set European states on a distinctive path of development, military rivalry, and war. This resulted in astonishingly rapid growth in Europe’s military sector, and produced an insurmountable lead in gunpowder technology. The consequences determined which states established colonial empires or ran the slave trade, and even which economies were the first to industrialize. Debunking traditional arguments, Why Did Europe Conquer the World? reveals the startling reasons behind Europe’s historic global supremacy.
Awards and Recognition
"Brilliant."—Edward Rothstein, Wall Street Journal
"[Why Did Europe Conquer the World?] is a very interesting addition to the flourishing history of the world genre."—Diane Coyle, Enlightened Economist
"History and counterfactuals blend into a fluent thesis, underpinned by diverting tables of data."—Martin Vander Weyer, Daily Telegraph
"Fascinating."—G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs
"A confident and sure-footed book."—Robert Fulford, National Post
"Big-picture economic history at its best. Hoffman's answer: chronic military conflict that gave European leaders incentives to harness widely known gunpowder technologies more effectively than leaders in other parts of the world. Also a good reminder of what economic history brings to today's economic and political table."—Barry Eichengreen, Bloomberg Businessweek
"A hugely ambitious book and one that no scholar analyzing transitions in global history can overlook. It is a daunting task to attempt such an endeavor, let alone succeed as Hoffman has. [How Did Europe Conquer the World?] will change interpretations of European warfare, the financing of conflicts, transitions in other regions of the world, the causes of the Industrial Revolution, and the Great Divergence—topics that are at the forefront of history, economics, and political science today. . . . Impressive and persuasive. . . . [T]his book is a classic of economic history, which should be required reading."—Jari Eloranta, EH.net
"Impressive."—Jan De Vries, American Historical Review
"A powerful argument that resonates strongly with recent work in international political economy (Herman Schwartz) and political science (Ned Lebow)."—Survival
"In a brilliant analysis, Hoffman demonstrates the dynamic interaction between the financing of the war, the innovation in warfare technology, and the political institutions, which sparked the race toward colonization and prepared the UK for the Industrial Revolution. [An] ambitious study."—Lisa Kaaki, Arab News
"An intriguing and compelling contribution to the riveting debate on the causes of European hegemony in the world over the last five hundred years."—Seneer Aktürk, Insight Turkey
"Ambitious book of big-picture economic history."—Ephraim Nissan, Quaderni di Studi Indo-Mediterranei
"Phillip Hoffman's book answers a question that economic historians have neglected: Why did Europe conquer the world starting about five hundred years ago? Hoffman stresses how incentives made Europe's princes unusually bellicose and willing to promote improvements in war technology. Combining wide reading, the judicious use of data, and economic models that distinguish Hoffman's explanation from that of earlier historians, Why Did Europe Conquer the World? represents the very best in economic history."—Timothy Guinnane, Yale University
"Why did Europe conquer the world? Philip Hoffman offers striking new answers to this old question. Hoffman's short answer is gunpowder or military technology. His longer answer is more unsettling: the political and geographical forces that made Europe's precocious economic development possible were inseparable from the arms race which enabled European states to win wars."—Cormac Ó Gráda, author of Eating People is Wrong, and Other Essays on Famine, Its Past, and Its Future
"Philip Hoffman upends the traditional story of why western Europe conquered the world. His elegant econometric model shows that by fighting constant wars with each other and never allowing a single hegemon to emerge, Western polities had greater incentives and opportunities to improve their military technology than their counterparts elsewhere. Anyone wanting to understand how economic theories are changing the ways we look at the past needs to read this book."—Daniel Chirot, University of Washington
"Beginning with the Spanish and Portuguese in the late fifteenth century, technological military superiority appears to have been the proximate cause of Europe's ever-expanding military dominance for the next five centuries. Where did this technological superiority come from? The answer provided in this convincing and tightly argued book is interesting and as definitive as such answers get."—Stergios Skaperdas, University of California, Irvine