Egypt Middle Kingdom

Ancient Egyptian language begins with Middle Egyptian, accepted by later Egyptians as the classical period of language, literature, and culture. The Middle Kingdom dated from approximately 2055 to 1650 b.c.e.

It comprised the second half of the Eleventh Dynasty, the Twelfth Dynasty that spanned 212 years (1985–1773 b.c.e.), and the Thirteenth Dynasty, at the end of which the central administration was once again weakening, leading into the Second Intermediate Period.

The pharaohs of the Twelfth Dynasty had remarkably long reigns: two, Senusret I and Amenemhat III, reigned for some 45 years. The First Intermediate Period was one of decentralization, but local rulers, religious institutions, and customs developed and flourished.

By the end of the First Intermediate Period power had concentrated in two centers, Herakleopolis, near the Faiyum in Middle Egypt, and Thebes. From the latter city the first three kings of the Eleventh Dynasty, all three named Intef, ruled Upper Egypt and gradually pushed the boundary of their rules further north. Around 2055 b.c.e. Mentuhotep II managed to reunify Egypt and reigned for 50 years, ushering in a period of peace and stability.

His two successors reigned a further 18 years, and Mentuhotep III was likely succeeded by his vizier, Amenemhat, as the first pharaoh of that name and of the Twelfth Dynasty.

His name, compounded with Amun, signaled the demotion of the local Theban patron god, Montu, and Amun’s steady rise to unrivaled prominence and wealth. In his 30-year reign Amenemhat I conducted campaigns in the eastern Delta and south in Nubia to secure Egypt’s access to gold.

He also sailed the Nile dealing severely with any signs of rebellion from local rulers. Amenemhat moved the capital to a site about 20 miles south of the old capital, Memphis. This was named Itjtawy, or "Seizer-of-the-Two-Lands". Amenemhat I was murdered as the result of a palace coup.

Though Senusret I was campaigning in Libya when his father Amenemhat I died, he returned, quelled any rebellion, and ruled on his own for 34 years—having reigned approximately 10 years with his father. He extended Egypt’s borders as far as Buhen at the Second Cataract in Nubia and led expeditions into Syria.

Like his father, he was a great builder and rebuilt the temple of Re-Atum at Heliopolis. Amenemhat II succeeded around 1928 b.c.e. His reign saw an expansion of trading contacts with Syria and the Aegean.

Egyptian artifacts from his reign have been found at Byblos in Lebanon and Knossos in Crete. A treasure trove from his reign was found in the temple of Montu at el-Tod, immediately south of Luxor, with silver goblets from Canaan and the Aegean, along with seals and jewelry from Mesopotamia.

His son, Senusret II, continued his father’s interest in the Faiyum by beginning to irrigate the area. His statues display a realistic appearance of the royal subject, which would continue into the succeeding reigns.

This was a break from the traditional representation of the pharaoh, especially in the Old Kingdom, as a remote, godlike being. This trend, copied among the nobility, makes the portraiture of this period unique and vivid.

The last two major pharaohs of the Twelfth Dynasty were Senusret III and Amenemhat III. Senusret III was apparently a commanding figure. He conducted several campaigns in Nubia, noted for their brutality.

He extended the southern boundary of Egypt well into Nubia, building a fortress at Semna beyond the Second Cataract. Even into the Thirteenth Dynasty military dispatches show how stringently the Egyptians controlled the natives and exploited resources.

Much of the wealth that poured in from Nubia was given to the gods. The shrine of Osiris at Abydos was gifted with precious metals and stones, and funds for priestly maintenance were given to the temple of Amun at Thebes.

The last of the long-reigning and powerful pharaohs of the Twelfth Dynasty was Amenemhat III (1831–1796 b.c.e.). His reign was long and peaceful, and the Middle Kingdom reached its cultural and economic peak. He expanded the use of the turquoise and copper mines in Sinai and quarried at Aswan and Tura and in Nubia, all recorded on inscriptions.

There are two statues that seem to show him in youth and maturity, displaying the strong features of his ancestors. The Twelfth Dynasty slid peaceably into the Thirteenth with the short reigns of Amenemhat IV and his sister-queen, Sobekneferu.

The Middle Kingdom saw the emergence of a comfortable "middle" class, the increase in endowments of mid-level temple priests, and a mercantile class who traded independently of royal interests. There was a more confident appropriation and expression of a blessed afterlife that relied less on proximity to the deceased pharaoh and more on the preparations of the individual.

As noted, the Middle Kingdom produced a great number of literary works, many of which became "classics" of genre, language, and style. In sum, it was an age that encouraged the rise of the individual and became aware of the world beyond Egypt.

Migration Patterns of The Americas

Migration Patterns of The Americas
Migration Patterns of The Americasn

Native Americans inhabited every region of the Western Hemisphere, from arctic North America to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. There are more than 500 distinct Native American tribal groups or nations in North America alone. Native people showed a remarkable ability to adapt to the different physical environments throughout North America.

They organized themselves into communities, governments, and cultures that were adapted to their local environment and were recognized as distinct tribes or nations by the people within the tribe as well as by the other Native nations. Native Americans’ own stories of how they arrived in their homelands are as varied as the tribes themselves.

There are some common themes, however, to these creation stories and oral traditions. All tribes have a creation story; most tell of humans being brought up from the ground by spiritual powers, and each culture tells of its own tribe as being the original people. This is usually a positive story, with humans being brought into this world with joy, companionship, and laughter.

Native cultures have a strong sense of distinct male and female powers and principles in the universe, and often these creation stories tell of the male spirits of the sky and Sun bringing humanity up from the female counterpart, the womb of Mother Earth. Sometimes these stories tell of the women pushing the men to venture out of the earth (or up from a lake or to embark on a long journey) to find the new world in the light.

Some tribes’ creation stories tell of their people emerging from the earth directly into their homeland. But many of them tell of a long migration: The people emerge and travel a great distance to their eventual homeland. Some tribes’ creation stories contain both subterrestial and terrestrial journeys.

The San Juan Tewa tribe of New Mexico tells of human beings first living in Sipofene, a dark world beneath a lake far to the north. The first mothers of the Tewa, Blue Corn Woman and White Corn Maiden, directed a man to travel to the world above the lake, where he eventually obtains the gifts that allow the Tewa to live in the terrestrial world.

The Potawatomi of the southern Great Lakes are another example. The Potawatomi are culturally, politically, and linguistically linked to the Ojibwa and Odawa people in the northern Great Lakes, and many stories link the Potawatomi to the Great Migration of the Ojibwa from the Atlantic seaboard to the Great Lakes.

But Potawatomi creation stories also tell of the original people arising from the St. Joseph River southwest of Lake Michigan. Native creation stories always carry a sense that it was a journey of great distance to arrive at the homeland, whether it was a journey from underground or a journey over land. And the goal is always to arrive at a distinct homeland for the original people.

This is a question that puzzled the European immigrants and settlers, beginning with the early explorers (once they realized they had not reached Asia as they had expected). Some Europeans speculated that the Native Americans were the lost tribes of Israel cited in the Bible.

The Jesuit missionary José de Acosta in the late 1500s proposed the theory that the Native Americans traveled from Asia following the great herds of animals that they hunted. Anthropology grew as a science in America in the 1800s, focusing on Native cultures and their origins.

Most contemporary evidence points to a migration of the Native American people from Asia, coming from north-eastern Siberia into Alaska sometime between 25,000 to 11,000 years ago. But there is still much debate about the exact time of this migration and whether it was one migration by a single group of people or different migrations by different groups.

The geological record points to an ice age that occurred from 40,000 to 11,000 years ago. There are two factors that would have influenced this migration. First, tying up so much of the earth’s water into ice would have resulted in a drop in the level of the oceans.

About 60 miles of water presently separate Alaska and Siberia, but in the last ice age, the ocean would have been low enough for these two landmasses to be connected, permitting easy migration from Asia into North America.

Studies of the fossil record indicate that this type of migration has occurred among the great herding animals. Caribou, mammoths, elk, and moose apparently traveled from Asia to North America, and horses and camels migrated the opposite way.

Secondly, the scarring of rock strata indicate that the ice sheet covering North America in this time period was vast, stretching south to the Canadian Pacific coast and across to the Atlantic Ocean. While migration from Asia into Alaska was feasible as early as 25,000 years ago, the ice sheet would have blocked further overland travel into the interior of North America until 14,000 years ago.

Some scientists argue that travel would have been possible along the Alaskan and Canadian coastline, but no evidence has been found as yet to indicate boats or a fishing-based culture in this region prior to 11,000 years ago.

Anthropologists have applied modern language theory and biological techniques to the question of migration. There are more than 1,000 Native American languages, and the North American languages are commonly recognized as falling into eight large, related groups.

Anthropologists have attempted to determine migration patterns tribes based on the dispersion of these language groups. Most agree that three or more migrations occurred, with the first beginning more than 11,000 years ago. The largest language group, the Amerind, links many languages in all regions of North America and is believed to be the earliest.

This migration was then followed later by the Na-Dene group, which is found in the U.S. Southwest and Northwest Coast (some 9,000 years ago), and still later by the Inuit and Aleut speakers of the Arctic (less than 8,000 years ago). Studies of dental traits and blood-group traits among Native Americans also tend to support the concept of three large migration events.

Once Native Americans did become established in central North America, they began to spread out to every region of the continent, and cultures and lifestyles began to evolve and adapt to the various regions. Scientists refer to these earliest cultures as Paleo-Indians. One artifact common to these people is a distinctive flint spear point referred to as the Clovis point.

A number of archaeological sites along the Great Plains have been dated to 11,000 years old, and they show evidence for the use of the Clovis point for hunting the great herds of mammoth, bison, and other animals. Other studies indicate that use of the Clovis point spread throughout North and South America as far north as the Yukon and as far south as the Andes.

Gradually, the climate warmed in North America. The huge herd animals of the ice age, such as the mammoths and mastodons, died out, the vast lakes in the U.S. West dried out and turned to desert, and deciduous forests became widespread in the East.

Native Americans adapted to their new environments and established new ways of life different from their Paleo-Indian ancestors. This second wave of cultures is referred to as the Archaic Tradition.

Archaic-period cultures developed more specific, regionalized characteristics. People of the western deserts utilized the lowland seasonal marshes and rivers for their sustenance or became hunter-gatherers in the foothills and mountains. People of the Northwest developed into great ocean and river fishers.

California Archaic people developed hunting-foraging cultures utilizing the abundance of resources in their region and practiced controlled burning to encourage plant and animal populations, particularly for oaks and acorns. The people of the Great Plains developed a greater reliance on the bison.

Eastern groups began to adapt to the growing woodlands. One particular cultural group is referred to as the Poverty Point culture. This group was first studied based on the Poverty Point earthworks in Louisiana, dated between 4,000 and 2,000 years old.

Poverty Point includes several earthen mound constructions, with the largest taking the form of a bird with outstretched wings. Artifacts uncovered at Poverty Point reveal trade materials originating as far away as the Great Lakes. Clay figurines, stone beads, and other ornaments are distinctive to the Poverty Point culture.

The Woodland culture was the next stage to develop. This term as used by archaeologists refers to a specific Native American cultural pattern that became common about 3,000 years ago and spread from the edge of the Great Plains to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Woodland culture had three main characteristics: a distinctive style of ceramics, community-based agriculture, and the construction of burial mounds. Mound building is perhaps the most recognized Woodland culture feature. Mound structures from this stage have been discovered from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the southern Great Plains to Ontario.

The Woodland groups again were not a single vast tribe or nation but instead were distinct communities that centered on local village or city sites often with mound structures. The mounds were usually burial structures but also frequently served ceremonial and political purposes.

The Woodland culture showed local variations, but certain practices were common to all. Trade was extensive throughout the network of mound communities, and a certain commonality of cultural practices likely served to unite these communities and help maintain the trade routes.

Elements of both the Archaic and Woodland stages existed in Native cultures up to 1600 c.e. For example, the Archaic fishing cultures of the Northwest and the hunter-gatherer-fishers of California inhabited some of the richest regions on the face of the earth.

Their life-styles never experienced any pressure to change their cultural practices. The early Spanish explorers reported city-states of the Woodland mound culture in the 1500s. The Iroquois tribes in New York are also organized on Woodland culture patterns.

The size of the Native population prior to 1492 is also subject to much debate. Scientific studies in the early 1900s relied on the reports and estimates of the European explorers and American settlers from the 1500s forward. These studies generally agreed on a figure of about 1 million Native Americans north of Mexico at the time of European contact.

More recent studies have begun to take into account additional factors, particularly the effect of Old World diseases. Diseases such as smallpox, chicken pox, the plague, and measles did not exist in the Native American population prior to 1492.

The disastrous effect of these diseases in Mesoamerican and Central and South American Native populations was well documented by the Spanish conquistadores in the 1500s. Given the existence of the extensive Native trade routes and the virulence of these diseases, it is reasonable to assume that these diseases had a similar devastating effect in interior North America as well.

More recent population studies, taking into account the effects of disease and the estimated carrying capacity of the various regions of the continent, have revised the Native American population estimate upward. Some studies have ranged as high as 18 million, but most recent estimates project Native population in North America prior to 1492 as closer to 5 million people.

The indigenous people of North America, their governments, and cultures were incredibly varied, with great adaptation to their respective regions, and they showed a great awareness of and respect for their physical environment.

Native American cultures were not static and had been undergoing cultural changes independent of and prior to European contact. But by 1600 a radical transformation had begun resulting from Old World immigration. At that point disease had begun to decimate Native populations, and this would be one of the key factors in opening the Atlantic seaboard to English colonization in the 1600s.

Edict of Milan

Edict of Milan
Edict of Milan

Emperor Diocletian pursued a comprehensive program against Christianity from 302 c.e. until his retirement in 305 c.e. His successors continued hostilities toward the church, especially in the eastern empire for several years, until it became clear that such programs were futile.

Sometime around 311 Galerius, one of the ruling Caesars, grudgingly and condescendingly issued the Edict of Toleration for all religious subjects, understood to apply mainly to the benefit of the persecuted Christians.

Shortly thereafter Galerius died. The western empire’s Caesar, Constantine the Great, immediately seized initiative and forged a similar agreement at Milan in 313 with his eastern counterpart Licinius.

This edict was more sympathetic to the Christian cause, reflecting Constantine’s sympathies for the faith. In time Christian causes even started to receive funds from the imperial treasury.

Ten years later Licinius unsuccessfully broke from Constantine’s religious revolution and renounced the accord of Milan; some 40 years later Constantine’s nephew Julian the Apostate also went this route and tried to reinstate conventional Greco-Roman religion.

The chronology and development of the Edict of Toleration and Edict of Milan is suspect, as the main sources (Lactantius and Eusebius of Caesaria) do not agree in detail; nonetheless, it is clear that Christians won their civic rights through these proclamations.

Contrary to popular opinion, Constantine the Great did not make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Only overt and widespread persecutions stopped. In fact, it was Theodosius I, called "the Great" by an appreciative church, who issued the edict Cunctos Populos in 380 that made orthodox teachings on the Trinity and the Incarnation of Jesus (Christ) of Nazareth mandatory for all citizens.

Anyone who did not go along was deemed "an extravagant madman". In 381 he summoned the bishops to the Council of Constantinople, as he began to deal seriously with church divisions.

Ten years later he fined and forcibly removed all church leaders who accepted Arianism. In addition, he forbade all Roman officials from participating in Greco-Roman religious sacrifices. By 392 Theodosius I had banned all pagan worship.

These aggressive religious programs effectively established Christianity as the state religion. From the fourth century onward Orthodox or Catholic Christianity was the dominant religion in the Mediterranean world.


The Minoan civilization has its roots on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea during the Neolithic Period (7000–3000 b.c.e.). The original inhabitants most likely emigrated from Asia Minor, which had already developed cities and conducted trade by 2000 b.c.e.

The Greek poet Homer refers to the Minoan population as "Eteo-Cretans" in book 9 of the Odyssey. This early culture used hieroglyphics similar to that of the Egyptians, which they eventually developed into a linear script for keeping records.

Most of what is known about this civilization was discovered during the excavations of Sir Arthur Evans during the early 1900s. Despite a strong naval influence, Minoan culture has no evidence of any warlike activity or organization.

The most important center of Minoan civilization was the palace city of Knossos. Located inland on the island of Crete, Knossos was built at the confluence of the Vlihia stream and the Keratos River, with good lands for vineyards and olive groves. The main palace was constructed on Kefala Hill in the early second millennium b.c.e.

The Minoans also built a sophisticated system of drains, roads, and warehouses to promote trade. The structures at Knossos show evidence of compartmentalized homes with working doors and partitions, with no difference between the homes of the wealthy and the workers.

This suggests that wealth may have been more evenly shared as the Minoan trade routes prospered. The palace and larger buildings may have even had functioning toilets. Many of the ruins at Knossos have colorful frescos or intricately designed pottery, which display a unique form of art in the ancient world.

Nearly all of the artwork uncovered displays Minoan daily life, showing fishing, sailors trading goods, young men and women participating in sporting games or rituals, wildlife, and religious figures. The Minoans developed art for art’s sake, a revolutionary concept in the ancient world. Through the Mycenaeans they passed this love of art on to mainland Greece.

The religious beliefs of the early Minoan culture were polytheistic and matriarchal, a goddess religion. The serpent goddess played a prominent role in the homes of Minoans, perhaps a foreshadowing of the strong female deities in the Greek religion. Minoan influence in the Mediterranean spread through trade.

The Cretans and their Aegean relatives developed what was one of the most advanced mercantile navies in history. There is evidence of trade with diverse areas such as Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Scandinavia. Goods traded with Knossos included copper, ivory, amethyst, lapis lazuli, carnelian, gold, and amber.

Clay tablets have been found at Knossos with both Linear A and B writing styles that contain records of goods traded and stored. Evidence of this vast trading network can also be found in the palace city of Akrotiri, located on the southwestern tip of Santorini island.

This city had only been rediscovered in the mid-1900s, having been buried by a volcanic eruption. Excavations revealed an elaborate drainage system built under sophisticated, multi-tiered buildings.

The building interiors were decorated with magnificent frescos, furniture, and vessels. The absence of skeletal remains or any valuables hints that the population may have been warned of the eruption and evacuated.

The most important Minoan artifact is the Law Code of Gortyn, which dates to 450 b.c.e. It is inscribed in marble at the Odeion using Dorian Greek in the boustrophedon style (one line is read right to left, then the next left to right).

Most of the laws pertain to property rights, marriage, divorce, and inheritance relating to free men and women and slaves. The content of the code corroborates the concept that men and women were given equal status in Minoan society.

Scholars cannot agree on what exactly brought about the end of the Minoan civilization. It was, perhaps, a combination of calamities over a short period of time. Crete is susceptible to seismic events. It is believed that the volcanic eruption at Thíra (Thera) may have caused a tsunami that decimated the civilization.

Other theories point to the adoption of Linear B writing as proof that the Mycenaeans conquered Crete and treated it as its colony. All that is known for certain is that Minoan culture declined as the Mycenaeans prospered.


When Palestinian society emerged from the turbulence of the two Jewish revolts against the Romans at the end of the second century c.e., rabbis united to promote a religious document called the Mishnah. The Mishnah and its subsidiary books, commonly called the Tosefta and the Talmud, serve Judaism to the present day just as a constitution unites citizens to a state.

The Mishnah is the core of this constitution; its name comes from the Hebrew word for "repeat". It was compiled under the leadership of Judah ha-Nasi, organized into six "orders", 63 tractates, and 531 chapters.

The six orders are Zera’im (agricultural laws), Mo’ed (seasonal observances), Nashim (relations with women), Neziqin (civil law), Qodashim (cultic law), and Tohorot (taboos). The Tosefta is a collection of supplements to the Mishnah, with approximately three-fourths devoted merely to citation and amplification of the contents of the Mishnah.

The Tosefta has no independent standing, being organized around the Mishnah, probably closed around the fifth century c.e. Both of these documents are the basis for the Talmuds, Palestinian (fourth century c.e.) and Babylonian (fifth century c.e.). The organization of the Talmuds also follows the Mishnah’s orders and tractates.

The Mishnah is something like the New Testament for Christians in two important ways: It represents a new and limited perspective of the Bible, and it presents itself as divinely inspired.

After the Temple was destroyed there was a need to reorient Judaism from a temple-oriented cult to a Torah-oriented culture of study and exposition. Similarly, after the life of Jesus (Christ) of Nazareth, Christians reinterpreted the Old Testament in a way that centered on his messiahship.

Thus, neither document was a repetition of the Jewish Bible, since neither pays attention to all aspects of the Bible’s themes. The Mishnah projects itself as an orally transmitted supplement to the written inspiration of the Bible.

It claims to be the words of Moses that were not originally written down like the Bible, now safeguarded in written form to preserve the Jewish faith. The Bible is the written Torah; the Mishnah is the oral Torah. Both are from Moses and authoritative.

Surprisingly, however, the Mishnah is not at all focused on the historical plight or future destiny of the Jewish people. Rather, it is a compendium of topics that the rabbis found relevant for their religious imagination.

The only historical references are the some 150 teachers and rabbis that speak out in the book, but not much description surrounds them to help the reader figure out their "real world". In fact, the only historical context reflects the Jewish world after 150 c.e.

Its value for historians is therefore limited. Modern scholar ship holds that the Mishnah reflects what the second-century rabbis considered important for their faith: not the temporary and changing face of external history, but the permanent and enduring world of holiness and eternality.

For example, the fifth order mainly concerns the Temple, even though the Temple had been destroyed generations earlier and its grounds were off-limits to Jews. Half of the Mishnah addresses this imaginary world of officials and customs that were no longer present or possible in Judah ha-Nasi’s day.

Jews in late antiquity, however, could take "real-world" consolation in the message of the Mishnah. Its message hinted at an imaginary world that countered the Roman worldview where Caesar demanded total allegiance.

The Mishnah says that God owns the land of Palestine and gives it to the people of Israel, Israel must pay God representative payments (tithes and offerings) and observe religious calendars to show divine ownership, and God has sovereignty over the social dimensions of human life as in clan and culture.

If the Mishnah is a selective treatment of the Bible and refl ects a theology that its compilers found inspiring but not overtly related to the external world, then its sequel, the Talmud, also commented on the Mishnah according to its later priorities.

Whole sections of the Mishnah were ignored. The Jerusalem Talmud covers only 39 of the 63 tractates and says nary a word on the fifth order and little on the sixth order; the Babylonian Talmud has its own set of equally limited applications.

Together, both treated the Mishnah in a manner that was different than what the compilers of the Mishnah intended. If the Mishnah is analogous to the New Testament, then the Talmuds are analogous to the writings of the fathers of the church.

Very soon after the Mishnah was compiled, Jews made it the centerpiece of their study, and it became the structure and content of their discussions. Other academies outside of Yavneh (Tiberias, Caesarea, Sepphoris, and Lydda in Palestine; Sura, Pumbedita, and Nehardea in Babylonia) adopted the Mishnah as their base text.

Even non-Mishnaic materials (such as the baraitot) were studied in relation to their parallels in the Mishnah. Its language, commonly called Mishnaic Hebrew, is a direct development of the spoken Hebrew language of the late biblical period with heavy infl uence by the predominant Aramaic language.

Because of the Mishnah’s authority not only in Palestine but also in the other great center of Jewish culture, Babylon, the Hebrew language was revitalized and never died out in rabbinic circles.


The kingdom of Mittani was an impressive Indo-European empire that ruled over northern Mesopotamia, or the Fertile Crescent, during the 15th and 14th centuries b.c.e. At its height the geographical region of Mittani stretched from the ancient city of Nuzi and the Tigris River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.

The two capital cities, Taite and Waššukanni, were most likely located in the heartland of the Khabur river valley or at its headwaters. The capitals’ archaeological sites have not yet been located.

Despite its greatness no Mittani texts regarding its own history have been found, so most of the information concerning the Mittani comes from Egyptian, Hittite, and Assyrian records. The Hurrians, a people who were present in the Khabur River valley for several hundred years prior to the Mittani’s political establishment, composed the majority of the population.

The ruling class of Mittani, however, seems to have been an Indo-European people in origin and worshipped Vedic deities; that is, the marks of this society planted in today’s Middle Eastern heartland bore resemblance to classical Indian culture.

Whether the Mittani introduced the horse to the Fertile Crescent is disputed, yet they did make use of it in a new form of chariot warfare. The Mittani developed a two-wheeled chariot drawn by two horses.

The elite aristocratic warriors, called Maryannu (meaning "noble in chariot"), and an accompanying archer manned these chariots. The Maryannu, along with their horses, were clothed in bronze or iron scale armor.

The chariots were used as a vehicle to surround enemies and a base from which to fire consistent volleys of arrows and javelins. The chariots were also used as collision and trampling weapons. This form of warfare served as a model for the Egyptians, Hittites, Babylonians, and Canaanites.

The Mittani kingdom ruled over all of northern Mesopotamia in the 15th century b.c.e. and reduced the former Assyrian state to vassal status. By the 14th century b.c.e. the constant conflict with the Hittites and Egyptians caused a significant reduction in the size of the Mittani Empire.

After the Mittani king Artatama established a treaty with Thutmose IV, pharaoh of Egypt, the two nations lived in relative peace, and the Egyptians acquired daughters of the Mittani kings for wives. However, the growing power of the Hittite kingdom in the west and the resurgence of the Assyrians in the east quickly became too much for the Mittani to handle.

During Tushratta’s reign, the last independent Mittani monarch, the Hittite king Suppiluliumas sacked Waššukanni. This event marked the fall of the Mittani Empire around 1370 b.c.e. The region of the Mittani was reduced to a Hittite vassalage known as Hanilgalbat and would later be controlled by the Assyrians.

A Hittite and Assyrian alliance destroyed the last remnant of the Mittani state in the north about 1340 b.c.e. Finally, an Assyrian king by the name of Shalmaneser I wiped history clean of the Mittani by securing the territory of Hanilgalbat (1280–70 b.c.e.) and deporting the Mittani people across the known world as cheap labor.



Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa are two ancient cities located on the banks of the Indus and its tributary the Ravi River in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. They represent the earliest civilization in the region, called the Indus, or Harappan, civilization, dating to approximately 2500–1500 b.c.e.

Excavation of the Indus civilization began in 1921 under the direction of Sir John Marshall. Mohenjo-Daro is located on the bank of the Indus River in present-day Pakistan and is the best-preserved city of the Indus civilization.

Its name means the "Mound of the Dead" because the center of the town is an artificial mound about 50 feet high surrounded with a brick wall and fortified with towers. The mound also had a great bath 39 feet by 23 feet, flanked by a large pillared hall, small rooms, and a granary.

A well-laid-out town lay below the citadel with streets running in a grid pattern oriented to the points of the compass. The town was divided into wards according to function, such as areas for shops, workshops, and residences. All buildings were made with baked bricks of uniform size.

Besides private wells in the courtyards of two-story individual residences, there were also public wells at street intersections. Covered sewers disposed of waste. There was also a cemetery where graves were neatly oriented in the same direction. There were no palaces or royal cemeteries.

Inscribed seals found at Mohenjo-Daro and other Indus cities show pictographic writing, to date undeciphered. So few characters are inscribed on each seal that they would not give much information even if they were deciphered.

Thus despite a high-level material culture, the Indus civilization is still considered prehistoric. The absence of palaces and royal cemeteries and the presence of a ceremonial bath and great hall lead specialists to guess that a college of priests ruled.

The abundance of small female figurines indicates a fertility cult. The uniform-sized bricks throughout the Indus Valley and nearby regions lead to speculation that some kind of government supervised the entire area; hence the name Indus Empire is also used to describe this civilization.

In Mohenjo-Daro archaeologists have discovered an advanced metal-using culture (bronze and copper), where people used wheel-made pottery vessels, wove cotton cloths, lived under a well-organized municipal government, and traded among one another and with other cultures. Indus seals have been found in Mesopotamia and lapis lazuli, a semiprecious stone used by Indus artisans, is mined in Afghanistan.

Conditions in Mohenjo-Daro deteriorated around 1700 b.c.e., shown by hoards of buried jewelry and precious objects, pots and utensils strewn about, evidence of fire, and at least 30 skeletons scattered about indicating that the people were trapped and died or were killed.

Whether natural disaster or invaders caused the final disaster, the city was abandoned, hence, posterity’s name Mound of the Dead for its ruins. Mohenjo-Daro is the best preserved of the Indus civilization cities excavated to date.

Mozi - Chinese Philosopher

Mozi, which means "Master Mo", began a Chinese school of philosophy called Moism. His personal name was Di (Ti). After studying under disciples of Confucius, he broke away and founded his own school of philosophy. During the era of the Hundred Schools of Philosophy Moism was a significant challenger to both Confucianism and Daoism (Taoism).

Mozi and his disciples are the authors of a book of 71 chapters (18 are missing), the Mozi, that explain their views. They can be summarized under three categories: universal love, utilitarianism, and pacifism, or opposition to offensive warfare.

Mozi taught that heaven was an active force in human lives and would punish humans for persisting in evil. He therefore urged people to follow heaven by practicing universal love.

He said: "The way of universal love is to regard the country of others as one’s own, the family of others as one’s own, the persons of others as one’s self. When feudal lords love one another there will be no more war ... When individuals love one another there will be no more mutual injury ... When all the people of the world love one another, then the strong will not overpower the weak, the many will not oppress the few, the wealthy will not mock the poor ... the cunning will not deceive the simple."

Moists also emphasized utilitarianism, the rejection of all activities and expenses that do not contribute to the welfare of the people. Moists took strong issue with Confucians who taught the importance of all forms of ritual and music and mocked Confucian insistence that children formally mourn the death of their parents as a waste of time and resources that could be better used in feeding and caring for the living.

They also condemned Confucians as pompous elitists who would only take up government positions that suited them. They moreover taught that thought should be consistent with action, that leaders obey the will of heaven and the people obey their leaders.

The third major point of Moism concerned warfare. Mozi lived in an era when interstate wars were intensifying. He denounced aggressive warfare as the greatest crime against heaven but justified the right of self-defense. Thus Moists became experts in defensive tactics and made their help available to any state threatened by aggression.

The story goes that Mozi once walked for 10 days and nights on a peace mission, binding his sore feet but not resting. When he failed to persuade the aggressor he would hurry to warn the potential victim. Many folk tales survived of Robin Hood–like acts of Moists in the cause of justice.

Mozi and his followers were idealists and militant do-gooders. They criticized Confucians for being traditionalists and for their graded approach to relationships and responsibilities. In time Confucianism became the mainstream Chinese philosophy, while Moism was abandoned.



Mycenae is an ancient city-state located in Greece on the Peloponnese Peninsula, upon a hilltop on the lower slopes of the Euboea Mountains, between two of its peaks, on the road leading from the Argolic Gulf. This site has been inhabited since around 4000 b.c.e. in the Neolithic Period. Mycenae gained in power and influence in the Late Bronze Age (1350–1200 b.c.e.).

The Mycenaean culture was originally based on warfare due to the rugged geography, which made farming difficult and herding a challenge. These warrior-chiefs would eventually become conquerors and administrators, bringing Greek knowledge to the Mediterranean.

The ancient city is built on an acropolis, surrounded by massive "cyclopean" walls, with a palace at the summit of the hill. Known as megarons, Mycenaean palaces were great halls with a portico in front, similar to the long houses of the Helladic period.

These palaces were more functional and austere than those of Knossos or Akrotiri. As with most expansionist civilizations, Mycenae broadened its military reach in search of raw materials and goods to support its population.

The most famous of the Mycenaean raids is the war against Troy in Asia Minor. Mycenaean warriors’ raiding ships traveled to Crete and Egypt as well and were even encouraged to practice piracy. Eventually raiding shifted to trading, with evidence of Mycenae and Crete trading goods as early as 1600 b.c.e.

Mycenae transitioned from a military center to a center for the redistribution of goods over the many roads connecting it to the surrounding coastal towns. During this time the Mycenaeans gradually adopted Minoan technology and artistic skills, while passing on the Linear B script that was used for record keeping and eventually developed into the Greek language.

The development of the Greek alphabet began in Phoenicia, where a consonant-only writing system first appeared. The Mycenaeans took this writing and added vowels to it, creating Linear B writing.

This alphabet had 24 letters, and its name came from combining the names of its first two letters, alpha and beta. Linear B script was used to inscribe the stories passed on by Homer, the trading records of Aegean cultures, and the political and social structures they developed.

The Mycenaeans shared many of the religious beliefs of the Minoans. Mycenae had a polytheistic religion and was actively syncretistic, which means that they added foreign gods to their pantheon of gods. However, many early forms of the Hellenistic Greek pantheon of gods and goddesses are found in the archaeological record.

Like other monarchial societies, Mycenae would bury their kings in lavish tholos tombs, large chambers cut into the side of a hill. Another unique religious practice of the nobility is the burial mask, placed over the face. Goldsmiths would fashion a likeness of the deceased’s face and create a thin mask with the appearance of sleeping eyes on it.

As trading with the rest of the eastern Mediterranean increased, so did trades practiced by Mycenaean citizens. In addition to warriors, craftsmen such as bronze workers, potters, masons, and carpenters began to develop.

Also, bakers, messengers and heralds, and shepherds are found in the artistic record left in frescoes and on pottery. Mycenaean social classes began to develop and take shape as well. At the top of the society were the kings and other war leaders.

Unlike the kings of Minoa, Mycenaean kings accumulated wealth that they did not share with commoners. He was also the warlord of a society that was geared for war and prepared for invasion. There were also lower members of society, consisting of soldiers, peasants, artisans, serfs, and even slaves.

Mycenae became the central power in a loose confederation of city-states throughout the Aegean Sea. Possible other members of the city-states were Tiryns, Pylos, Thebes, and Orchomenos. Mycenae was the strongest. This political system is described in Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad.

Many scholars believe that Agamemnon may have been the king of Mycenae during the events of the Trojan War. A series of fires from 1250 to 1100 b.c.e. brought down the political and military power of Mycenae. The Dorians of Argos finally conquered the city-state in 468 b.c.e., and its population was banished from the ruins.

The Greek writer Pausanias visited Mycenae during the second century c.e. and reported that it had been abandoned for some time. The political influence of Mycenae over the Aegean region spread the language, culture, and trade that would eventually develop into Hellenistic Greece.

Mystery Cults

In the Greek and Roman worlds dissatisfaction with civic and public religion often gave rise to experimentation with foreign and secretive religions that promised better benefits to its devotees.

The reason for the popularity is a matter of scholarly speculation. Perhaps the population displacements, the exposure to foreign cults, and the breakdown of the city-state (polis) made people interested in change.

The gods of the Romans and the Greeks might have seemed out of touch with the new realities of empire and the need for community. The literature shows more attention to inward concepts like self, intimacy, personal relationships, and privacy, all terms that are not associated normally with Greek and Roman public religion.

Public religion bound all the citizens together by sacrifices that were openly conducted and enjoyed—that is to say, at altars outside the specific temple. Usually the sacrifice involved a feast day observed by everyone, processions that publicized the event, and finally a banquet where the sacrifice was consumed. All the citizens were bound together by such public demonstrations, and the bonding of everyone was more important than particular emotional expressions.

Exposure to the Middle East may have presented people with an alternative to the Greeks and Romans. There is evidence in documents and inscriptions that "hidden" teachings were passed on, perhaps from even more isolated or foreign groups (such as Persians, Egyptians, and Asians) in contact with the mediate cultures of the Middle East.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, use the notion to promote the priority of their teaching. Certainly the New Testament (such as Col. 1:26), late jewish bible books (such as Daniel), and rabbinic Judaism (Moses’s "oral traditions") also speak of knowledge not known to mainstream religion. This idea also finds expression in the Gnostic sects of later centuries.

Often a small group of people would meet privately, and secret rituals would be conducted indoors away from the public eye. The Greek word mysterios means a secret that is revealed to insiders. Outsiders wrote about the secrets, many of whom were Christian and often hostile to or competing with the mystery cult.

Members were sworn to secrecy, and punishment was meted out to anyone who disclosed the mystery. The small group of the mystery cult emphasized their exclusive fraternity.

In order to belong, a process of initiation was set up. The initiation often was available only to certain qualified individuals, instead of to every interested person. The process of initiation might take days and hardships like fasting or vigils.

The idea was that the initiated member would experience solidarity with everyone else who endured the same experience. Through the initiation the members would feel a sense of identity and belonging in an otherwise foreign world.

Usually at the center of the mystery cult was a hero, who was the focus of the rituals. The activities of the cult served to reenact the life of the hero so that the members could participate and derive the strengths and virtues of the hero.

Often initiation began the participation, but there might be some ritual that ended or fulfilled the member’s process of initiation. Such things might involve sacred meals, dramas, or liturgies.

Many mystery cults of Roman times promised their members not only intimate community but union with the divine, liberation, and reassurances about the afterlife. Orpheus, Demeter, Dionysus, Achilles, Adonis, and others were the kind of heroes celebrated by cults.

They all shared in suffering, misery, or ill fate. In addition, they all were human (though mythical) and shared in human nature’s limitations, including loneliness and death. Thus, it was easier for the initiate to find solidarity with their hero than with the public religion’s gods and goddesses.

By the reenactment of the hero’s life, the participant might be able to purge his or her own anxieties and fears about life. As the mystery cults developed in the Roman world, the idea of "rebirth" replaced the idea of purgation of fear.

Some mysteries were considered deviant to public welfare and so were persecuted—and here Christianity might serve as an example. Public officials acknowledged other mysteries as serving a constructive and cohesive function for society.

The Eleusinian Mysteries conducted city-wide processions and inducted the likes of Marcus Aurelius, Alcibiades, and Julian the Apostate, and existed for more than 1,000 years before Theodosius I destroyed its sanctuary (400 c.e.) and established Christianity as the state religion. In general, the mystery cults did not openly contradict the public religion.

Membership in the mysteries was limited, though some permitted almost anyone regardless of rank and sex to join (Eleusis). Some mysteries served soldiers (Mithras), some women (Villa of Mysteries in Pompey), some family members or slaves (here many scholars would place Christianity).

Since secrecy and privacy surrounded the mystery religions, hard evidence for their members and rituals is lacking. The familiarity of the ancient world with the mystery cults may explain why Christianity came to be so readily accepted in the communities and societies outside of Diaspora Judaism.


Petra (Jordan) #lostcity #Nabataeans
Petra (Jordan)

The merchandise and produce that traversed the great deserts separating the Mediterranean from the Orient often were traded and carried by the Nabataeans. This lucrative commerce meant that their capital city, Petra, became an exotic and prosperous center of ancient civilization.

The Nabataeans migrated as Arab wanderers from the northwest Arabian Peninsula and occupied the land of the Edomites. By the fourth century b.c.e. they controlled the southern region of the Transjordan, the southern Negev Desert, and Wadi Arabah.

Unlike many of their Arab predecessors, they settled into cities and formed into a political state under a monarchy, 11 kings of which have so far been identified. They established their domain as the intermediary trading power in the Middle East, dominating the trading routes going north and south from Arabia to Syria, and having an interest in east-west trade as well.

Nabataean goods have been found as far west as Spain. Precious items of their cargoes included frankincense and myrrh from Arabia, balsams and bitumen from the Dead Sea area, and silk and gems from Asia. To protect their routes they constructed hundreds of caravan stations throughout the deserts.

They were also famous for their sophisticated water-gathering technology that enabled them to support relatively heavy populations and sustain desert agriculture on a scale unmatched until modern times. Nabataean cities thrived in otherwise waterless areas.

The capital city Petra greatly benefited from trade and technology. It reached its height in the first century c.e., tucked away in a remote desert valley of present-day Jordan. Its climate was ideal for preservation of the architectural structures, often carved into the rocky cliffs: Some 800 structures of tombs and cult survive in addition to the many more conventional Greek-styled temples and secular buildings.

The evidence for Petra’s advanced culture is also found in its inscriptions, coins, ceramics, and decorative art. The Nabataeans borrowed Aramaic as their language, perhaps because it was the lingua franca of trade in the region, but their language retained many Arabic words. Their script is the basis for modern Arabic.

Many letters and business documents have been found—including very many Byzantine manuscripts—but no early extensive literary texts remain to describe the civilization’s ideology, social structure, and even history. Speculation must come from external sources and from the material remains.

Inside petra
Inside petra

The earliest references to the Nabataeans come from the biblical stories about the Maccabees and later from Roman historians. The Persian Empire effectively left them alone, and the Seleucid Empire was unable to absorb them. Under Aretas IV (c.9 b.c.e.–c. 40 c.e.), their borders reached as far north as Damascus.

There were some tensions between them and the Judaeans during the reign of the Herods, but the Romans apparently left them alone and independent until the end of the first century c.e. In 106 c.e. Trajan decided to colonize the entire area. Though the kingdom ceased to exist at that time, nonetheless Petra seems to have continued largely unaffected for another 250 years.

Only a succession of earthquakes and Islamic invasions brought oblivion to the Nabataeans for the outside world. Except for a brief visit by crusaders in the late Middle Ages, Petra and its civilization were not opened again to outsiders until modern times.

Native Americans Chronologies and Peoples

Native North American tribes had sets of beliefs describing the origin of Earth and the universe, the laws of that universe, how humans interacted with the rest of that universe, and the relationship between the physical world and the spiritual world.

Prior to the incursion of Europeans, Natives in North America organized themselves into distinct self-governing units that functioned with an independence and sovereignty that was recognized both within the tribe and by outside groups.

It is often estimated that there were more than 500 Native nations at the time of European contact, and as independent communities there was a remarkable variety to the beliefs and customs from tribe to tribe. There are, however, certain commonalities and patterns in languages, cultures, and beliefs across these 500 nations.

Creation Stories

Native Americans predominantly had creation stories telling of their arrival from the underworld into the physical world. Typically, this was a hero story for the tribe, telling of the first man’s (or first woman’s) adventures and trials in winning the way for all of humans to live in the current physical world.

Male and female principles were very important to Native people. The underworld was typically a female realm, and whether this community was first under the earth or under water, it was associated with being within Mother Earth.

The journey into the current world was often long and difficult and often involved a migration either up from the underworld or over land to arrive at the tribal homeland. And always, the community thought of themselves as the First, or True, People.

Native American tribes in North America closely integrated their spiritual practices with their community conduct, their cultural practices, and their decision making. Indians often believed in a strong tie between humans, the other living things in the world, and the elements in the world.

The powers and forces of the spiritual realm were ever present in every day existence, and the laws of the spiritual world were just as important to the events of life as the laws of the physical world.

Social Structure

Most North American tribes were egalitarian, with little social stratification, and their spiritual beliefs reflected this. Humankind was recognized as a distinct type of being, but the other entities in the world all had spirits and were generally considered as being on equal footing spiritually with humans; there was no "spiritual hierarchy" to creation.

This extended not just to the mammals but to birds, reptiles, fish, and often to stones, water, and the landscape. The fact that these other entities had spirits did not preclude hunting or harvesting them for food or using them for tools or shelter; it was considered that each entity had a purpose within creation and that using these other entities or harvesting them was within the purpose of creation.

But it was important to acknowledge the spirit of these other entities and recognize their place in creation. For example, the tribes of the Algonquin language group in the Northeastern woodlands of North America referred to the animals as their "brothers".

When hunting and killing an animal, it was important to offer a prayer of apology and thanks to the brother animal for taking its spirit and to explain to the brother spirit that its life was given up so that the human tribe could continue on its path in the world.

Frequently, a spirit guide would be identified for the individual, such as an animal like the bear, the eagle, or the sturgeon, or a force of nature such as the thunders, and the attributes of this spirit would serve as a guide to an individual throughout their adult life. Many tribes organized themselves into clans associated with specific animals, and the clan families would serve specific roles in the life and decision making of the tribe.

For example, the tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy to the south of the St. Lawrence River divided their communities into nine clans, including the Turtle, Wolf, Heron, Hawk, Snipe, Beaver, Deer, Eel, and Bear. Clans were quite widespread throughout the tribes of North America and often were respected across tribal boundaries.

Connection with The Natural World

This belief in the spirit within living creatures carried to the plant world as well, and the cultivated food plants of the Native Americans were particularly important. Corn was significant throughout the southern half of North America.

The pueblo-dwelling tribes of the Southwest cultivated strains of corn that were adapted to the marginal semidesert climate, and the tribes had ceremonies to honor the spirit of the corn, to mark the times of year for planting, rainfall, and harvest, and to give thanks for the continuing cycle that led to the annual harvest and to the production of a new seed bank to begin the cycle again. The Iroquois tribes revered corn along with beans and squash as the Three Sisters.

Their agricultural practice combined the three plants into symbiotic garden plots that minimized weeding and maximized production. Similar to the Pueblo people, the Iroquois honored the growing cycle and the spirits of the Three Sisters in their ceremonies.

Many plants were used for spiritual purposes as well. In ceremonies smoking was considered a way to offer prayers to the spirit world. Smoking pipes have been found in burial sites and village sites dating back thousands of years and range from very simple and humble clay pipes to elaborate carved artworks of pipestone and other precious materials. Various plants were used for smoking mixtures, with tobacco being used almost universally throughout the continent.

Other plants were eaten, used in teas, or burned as incense for spiritual purposes. For instance, the Algonquin people in the Great Lakes considered sage, sweetgrass, cedar, and tobacco the four primary spiritual plants, and their use was common among many other tribes across North America.

Healing and Spirituality

Healing and spirituality were closely linked. Many plants were used for their medicinal and healing effects on the body. But many of the Native healing practices aimed at the spiritual problems as well as the physical. The Navajo in the Southwest speak of the Navajo Way, an outlook of having one’s life and physical body in harmony with the community, the physical world, and the spiritual world.

Many illnesses are considered to be a manifestation of actions or desires in one’s life that are in conflict with the physical and spiritual order of the universe, and healing these illnesses is a matter of restoring the person to balance with the rest of creation.

This notion of balance and a cyclical order to the spiritual and natural worlds is widespread. The Sioux of the Great Plains speak of existence as the Sacred Hoop, delineated by the four cardinal directions. Tribes across the continent revere this concept of the Circle and the Four Directions.

Rather than viewing time and existence as a linear march of event following event, Native people looked at existence as cycles: the cycle of the year and seasons, and the cycle of birth to death leading to rebirth. The archaeological, geologic, and genetic records point to the First Americans migrating from Siberia into North America sometime between 25,000 to 11,000 years ago.

These people then spread throughout the American continents, adapted to changes in climate and the varied American landscape, and arrived at their wide variety of cultural and cosmological worldviews prior to contact with the European colonists.

Hunting and Agrarian Treditions

In studying Native American spiritual practices, modern anthropologists trace these Native beliefs back to two major traditions. The first is referred to as the Northern Hunting tradition, linked to the big-game hunters of the ice age migration from Siberia.

The spirits of the animals and the cycles of the hunt are the focus of worship, with the cult of Bear worship being particularly common. Shamans, individuals within the community who are considered to have gained great power and wisdom carry out ceremonies and healing rituals.

The younger tradition is the Southern Agrarian tradition, believed to have spread northward from Central America, traveling with the introduction of corn and organized agriculture. The Southern Agrarian tradition links the power of creation and rejuvenation with plant life and the growing seasons, with Corn Mother becoming a central force in the cycles of the world.

Priesthoods and cults directed the ceremonial practices in agricultural communities, particularly among the city-states of southern North America. Aspects of these two traditions mingled among the tribes over the centuries, with most tribes retaining portions of the old hunting tradition while incorporating elements of the newer agrarian tradition.

Both traditions indicate a people closely linked to nature and to the other living entities of the world. The force of life, spoken of by some tribes as the fundamental power of movement in the universe, was seen to be present in all things and was to be respected and acknowledged, particularly in the most central living things that give up their life-force so that humans could eat and live, whether that sacrifice was recognized in the corn plant or the bear.

All other life and movement in the world, whether it was the hopping of the rabbit, the push of the seedling from the ground, the movement of the wind, or the turning of the Great Circle of Life itself, all related back to this central power, and by acknowledging the spirit in the Bear or the Corn Mother, the community acknowledged the presence of the spirit within itself and the community’s own place in creation.