The Beginnings of Human History

Perot Museum announces new exhibit of ancient civilizations

Created by--

Ethan Judd
Landon Goesling
Karl Sadler
Camila Galindo


Come visit the Perot Museum in Dallas to experience this breath-taking exhibit

The Perot museum has recently announced that new artifacts and displays from the ancient river civilizations found in Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, and China, will be featured in their museum. This exhibit will offer much information regarding the culture, cities, and government of these different groups of people. Please take the time to read through this brief summation of these civilizations, and consider coming out to see Perot's amazing new display.

Mesopotamia

Cities

Mesopotamia had various cities in it's land area by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the first of them formed in the Akkadian Empire, and later, in the Babylonian Empire. Perhaps the most famous city of it's time was ancient Babylon, ruled by King Nebuchadnezzar; Babylon had an impressive population of 200,000 people, and had other notable features, such as a canal system, a 10 mile wall that surrounded and defended the city, and the famous ziggurat, a stepped tower which was built to the gods.


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Government

The head of the government was the king, who controlled the majority of the power, and ruled over his citizens. The king, being divinely appointed by the gods, was able to come up with his own laws, the common belief at the time being that the ruler and laws of the civilization were set apart by deity. Tablets with laws inscribed upon them, made by King Hammurabi from Mesopotamia, have been uncovered, and several can be seen on display at the museum.


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Religion

Religion in Mesopotamia consisted of hundreds of deities who all served a different purpose, and could be worshiped. Sanctuaries were built and dedicated to deities, and people could pay their respects in them. The major deities recognized by the people of Mesopotamia were the gods and goddesses of the sky, air, water, earth, wisdom, and although people believed in them, few felt a personal connection with them. People believed in personal gods or goddesses who helped them, and they respected and revered these deities.


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Art

Dating back to 3500 B.C.E., Mesopotamian art was intended to serve as a way to glorify powerful rulers and their connection to divinity. Art was made from natural resources such as stone, shells, alabaster and marble, and was often created as didactic pieces.


Writing

The Sumerians who lived in Mesopotamia around 3500 BCE were credited with creating the first writing system in the world; these people wrote on clay tablets using pictograms, a form of writing simply using pictures to represent ideas. In the later years of Mesopotamia, merchants and artisans designed cuneiform, a complete system of writing to be used in trade.


Social Structure

Mesopotamians had social classes based on their occupation; at the bottom were slaves, who were usually prisoners of war. Up the ranks were commoners, who worked as farmers, then merchants, scribes, priests, and royalty.


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Egypt

Cities

Cities in Egypt were almost always in close proximity to the Nile, which was a landmark of religious and physical importance of ancient Egypt. The civilization was divided into the upper and lower kingdoms, which each had their own cities. Egyptian cities relied heavily on trade, and as trade helped the cities flourish, the towns developed and became more advanced.


Government

Egyptian government placed the pharaohs at the top of the chain, with them being the rulers over their land. The pharaoh was claimed to be a god, which automatically placed him above all of the others. The pharaoh would also have several clergies, who would carry out his commands.


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Social Structure

The main focus of the government was on the pharaoh, yet he also needed to control his people, so he created 4 classes the upper, middle, lower, and bottom class. At the lowest link of the chain were slaves, who were forced to carry out tasks such as building the great pyramids.


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Religion

Egypt was a largely dominant polytheistic civilization, with gods for many different forces in nature. Egyptians worshiped these gods by building monuments or making artwork for them. Some of the prevalent gods in Egyptian culture were Isis, Horus, Ra, Set and Osiris. The process of mummification was also a big part of their religion, and it is still well known today.


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Writing

When it comes to writing, ancient Egypt is most well known for the hieroglyphs which were carved into tombs. Hieroglyphs were pictures which depicted stories to try and communicate a meaning; they were written on papyrus or carved into clay. When used in burial, hieroglyphs also had religious purpose.


Art

Much of the art Egyptians are known for is found in their hieroglyphs; however, Egyptians also used the abundant clay found in their civilization to make pottery, and a sarcophagus is a good example of a beautiful piece of art made by these people thousands of years ago. Art was mostly used to depict the gods of Egyptian polytheism.


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Indus River Valley

Cities

The Indus River Valley civilization had numerous cities, with Harappa and Mohenjodaro being the most highly complex that developed in the early years. Cities incorporated a sewer system to keep it clean.


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Government

The Indus Priests were technically in charge of the government, because they were the highest in social level, seeing as they were the ones who made offerings to the gods. There was also a central government system based off their religion, and people known as Rajas ruled over individual cities.


Social Structure

The Indus River Valley civilization is found in modern day Pakistan and India, where today, a firm caste system is found. The makings of this caste system began in this ancient civilization, where principles of Vedism helped start a rigid system in which no one could move from. Whichever class you were born into is the class you stayed in.


Religion

In the Indus River Valley, the Aryans introduced the idea of Vedism, a religion which grew to evolve into what we know as Hinduism. Archeological evidence also suggest that people believed in animal and nature worship. Like the other civilizations of their time, they were polytheistic, worshiping Gods and Goddesses.


Art

The Indus Civilization had advanced skills in pottery, painting, and sculpting. They were some of the first people who were advanced in metal sculptures out of bronze, and were unique, in that they made sculptures out of wax. They used enigmatic seals in a lot of their art that usually had an animal or human representation.


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Writing

The Indus Civilization writing utilizes a script made up of a string of symbols that to this has not been able to be translated or understood.


China

Cities

Ancient China began with the Shang dynasty, a period of time in which, Shang, the cultural capital, was a very important city. Shang was the home of many of the religious temples and tablets important to the Chinese, and it remained an important area throughout the earliest years of civilization. Our exhibit features some of the famous artifacts found from Shang, and other early cities in China.


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Religion

In ancient China, people believed in multiple deities, such as Shang Di, a sun God. However, more importantly, they practiced what is known as ancestral veneration, the worshiping of one's ancestors. These practices will continue to develop into one of China's most unique religious characteristics.


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Government

According to legend, the Shang Dynasty was founded sometime around 1600 BCE by a virtuous man named Cheng Tang, who overthrew the evil king of the legendary Xia. The Shang Dynasty was a monarchy governed by a series of kings, 29 or 30 in total, over the course of almost 600 years. Similar practices of government would carry on from this dynasty into the Zhou dynasty.


Art

Art was a large part of ancient Chinese culture, and many pieces of art which have been discovered from the Shang and Zhou dynasties are on display here at Perot. During the Zhou dynasty, metals such as bronze and iron became a big part of the culture, and art such as sculptures were made from them. Pottery used for holding liquids was also made in abundance, and the artists engraved images to depict stories in their crafts. Below, samples of some of the artwork on display at the museum are shown.


Social Structure

Ancient China had a distinct hierarchy of classes, with royalty at the top, descending from there. Each class had it's own role with functions and jobs to help support the society. This social structure system is similar to those found in the other civilizations of the period of time.


Writing

One of the most important events in ancient China was the invention and development of a writing system. Anthropologists have found and analyzed bones from animals that lived in the Shang and Zhou dynasties, and identified characters and writing patterns on them which very closely resemble the modern Chinese language today. In the earliest years of their civilization, the Chinese had already established a writing system that would be used for thousands of years.


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