The history of humankind is incomplete without honoring some of our ancestral elders. Civilizations move forward and evolve when we work together to solve the challenges and problems of the day. The practice of living in groups with mutual respect and reliance on one another triggered the metamorphosis of isolated groups to large communities, to societies, and finally to civilizations.
The world has since witnessed the rise and fall of several great civilizations. Some ancient civilizations stand out more than others in terms of their enduring influence, power, reach, and lasting contributions to human development. Many ancient civilizations are lost to time, decay, and the lack or loss of historical written chronicles. However, four forgotten but important ancient civilizations serve as a testament to the human spirit, inspiration, and the grace of time.
The Mesopotamian civilization
Historical location: Sumer in southern Mesopotamia and the land between rivers (ancient Greece)
Present-day location: Turkey, Iraq, and Syria
Major highlights: First known civilization in the world
Timeline: 3500 BC–500 BC
Why the Mesopotamian civilization is important
The concept of urbanization first started with this civilization. Mesopotamia remains the source of the largest set of ancient artifacts, knowledge, and writings. It was the first city built with sun-dried bricks. History records three significant contributions by the Mesopotamian civilization: the invention of the wheel, large-scale agriculture, and the present-day number system technology based on 60.
The Indus Valley civilization
Historical location: The basin of the Indus river
Present-day location: Northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest India
Major highlights: One of the most widespread civilizations
Timeline: 3300 BC–1900 BC
Why the Indus Valley civilization is important
Thanks to the Indus Valley, or Harappa, civilization, the present world has many things that we take for granted. Their people’s expertise and development of water management systems, drainage methods, town planning, and harvesting practices remain incomparable. Despite the fact that it was one of the earliest civilizations with a huge land mass, the Harappa civilization arose independently.
The Ancient Egyptian civilization
Historical location: Nile River banks
Present-day location: Egypt
Major highlights: Construction of pyramids
Timeline: 3150 BC–30 BC
Why the Ancient Egyptian civilization is important
Egyptian civilization is widely known and respected based on their artifacts, construction acumen, inventions, art, pharaohs, and culture. Sometimes called the Kemet or Black Land civilization, the ancient Egyptians looked to the heavens and cultivated stargazing into a practical science. Egyptian astronomers used their knowledge to predict many things, such as when to expect the flooding of the Nile and the correct time to sow seeds and harvest.
Ancient Egyptians were also great mathematicians. They expanded the understanding of mathematics and geometry by building the Pyramids. This serves as an enduring tribute to not only the Egyptian kings and queens but also to their engineering prowess.
The Maya civilization
Historical location: Around the Yucatan Peninsula
Present-day location: Campeche, Yucatan, Tabasco, Quintana, and Chiapas in Mexico and passing through Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador
Major highlights: Advanced knowledge of astronomy and calendar creation
Timeline: 2600 BC–900 AD
Why the Maya civilization is important
The Maya civilization dominated the Mesoamerican societies of the era. Their distinguished achievements include three accurate calendars. In addition, they are widely respected for their writing system, flourishing trade route, and engraved stone architecture. In order to sustain a viable food supply, the Mayans fostered crop cultivation of beans, vegetables, and maize. There is evidence of their domestication of dogs and turkeys during this time.
We share a modern-day connection and knowledge with those that have come before us. They laid the foundations that we have the privilege to magnify, improve, and create our own legacies from.