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Barbarian Tides: TimeFrame 1500-600 BC

by Time-Life Books

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Describes the historical events and the various civilizations that flourished throughout the world, with emphasis on the Mediterranean area, from 1500 to 600 B.C.

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Describes the historical events and the various civilizations that flourished throughout the world, with emphasis on the Mediterranean area, from 1500 to 600 B.C.
  riselibrary_CSUC | Jun 5, 2020 |
Not easy to draw real "history" from the texts and artifacts, so much of which is bent and erased by ideology and time. The editors manage to tell many stories, little and big, with reference to the irony and the legends which give life to the dead.


Restless ones, the story of immigration. So often, people arrive from somewhere else, and we rarely know where, and they change things. From 1500-600 BC on the Eurasian landmass, "barbarians" invaded the settled fertile crescent of Sumer. No clues or explanations have ever been made for how Indo-Europeans from the harsh semiarid Eurasian steppes and Semites from the deserts of Judea-Arabia immigrated to the river valleys. Perhaps all it took was the horse for the former, and the camel and donkeys for the latter. [9] But whatever the cause, the movement set off chain reactions that remain shifting in all of civilization to this day. Even the civilization of China was not so distant that it would not be contending with the shifting of the barbarians jostling against each other.[10]

In the Western Hemisphere, the Chavin culture in the Andes and the Olmecs in Mesoamerica began great achievements in artistic and organizational refinements.

But it was in the Mediterranean that the migrations of the steppe-people had the greatest impact. Linguistically we now identify these migrants as Indo-Europeans and Semites -- although neither grouping was known or intelligible at the time, either by their enemies or by themselves.


The Mycenaeans moved into Greec and created an Aegean civilization that replaced the Minoan. Celts and Germans, Balts and Slavs, headed north, penetrating to every part of the European continent and crossing into Britain. [Where they encountered the Basques, the first inhabitants!] The Latins settled on the Italian peninsula, eventually eclipsing the Etruscans -- "whose civilization was one of the crowning glories of this age" -- by building Rome.

Others drifted from the steppes to the Iranian plateau, and from there some trekked east over the Hindu Kush mountains into India. These migrants, the Aryans, would build a civilization which spawned Hinduism.

"But for all those sweeping, large-scale shifts of peoples across the breadth of Europe and into south Asia, nowhere were the effects of moving populations more visible--or more violent--than in the relatively small region that encompassed the Middle Eastern birthplace of civilization."[11]

From the south and west, a myriad group of Semitic peoples took to camels and looked at the riparian settlements for plunder and for emulation. Chaleans, Aramaeans, Phoenicians, and Hebrews, all began carving territories in this crowded neighborhood. The settled people of the Tigris-Euphrates were caught between all of these migrant tribes encroaching upon them from all directions.[11]


The Hittites arrived in Asia Minor, and built the citadel of Hattusa on a plateau 3000 feet above sea level.[11]

By 1700 BC the Hittites drifting in from the wilds of Eurasia settled in Anatolia, and for the next three centuries ruled as a warrior elite over the native inhabitants. Men and women dressed alike, and their culture was remarkable for its energy and adaptation. The Hittites had their own hieroglyphs, but adopted cuneiform script from the Babylonians, and recorded voluminous myths, hymns, edicts and records of state, most of which reveal a demanding devotion to religious ritual.[12] Their art was highly imaginative, and they promulgated laws based on restitution rather than punishment. The law was free of mutilations and retribution. Provincial commanders often had standing orders to "do what is just".[14]

The Hittites worshiped an unruly pantheon of gods endowed with human frailties. Yet humans were expected to be dignified and restrained. The only death penalty was for bestiality and forcible rape. Not only is this rule singular for lack of divine example, but the laws were humane compared with the mutilative cruelties of the earlier Babylonian and the later Assyrian codes.[14]

The Hittites conquered an empire, using highly-trained horses yoked to a 3-man chariot. At the height of the empire under Hattusili, in the year 1269 BC, the chariots faced the larger divisions of the Egyptian army under Ramses II. The first Treaty between empires was the result - the two armies presciently preserving themselves and withdrawing. Ramses took a Hittite princess as his bride.[16]

Significantly, the Canaanites allied themselves with the Hittites and were rewarded with annihilation. The Hebrews allied themselves with the Pharoahs, and were rewarded with an increased role as traders. The Phoenician ascent became one of the results. But a rampaging wave of unknown people--"the Sea People"-- in a mass alliance possibly led by Phrygians and Greeks, invaded Anatolia. They reduced Hattusa to ashes, and the Hittites disappeared from history. By 1200 BC their empire was gone, and their eastern neighbors, the Semitic Assyrians (Arab-Jews) settled between the Two Rivers, rose up to fill the vacuum of power.[17]


Under Tiglath-Pileser I, who assumed the throne in 1115 BC, the agricultural economy was made to flourish. There was political stability and a middle class. That led to a new form of warfare--the elite charioteers supplanted by a heavy infantry drawn from the levee of the serfs who owed allegiance to the landholders. While the King had absolute power in theory, the feudal system, and the constant obligations of religious ritual, kept the tyrants occupied.

The Assyrians believed they were surrounded by demons and demanding gods. They believed goodness was a thing of the past, and innovation should be avoided. While the protected the libraries of the Babylonians and built a great collection of scrolls at Ninevah, their great interest remained with immense armies and war. Sargon II built the great city of Khorsabad, but it was a colossal waste, for it was never inhabited since the middle classes were not encouraged. By the time Sargon was killed in 705, it was falling into ruin.[23]

The Assyrian King was its high priest, and conquest was the divine mission. the records of Ashurnasirpal have him boasting of slaughter and the demolition of entire cities. "This was something new." Assyrian priest kings, by deliberate design, practiced and proclaimed their atrocities--mutilation, flaying, and impalement -- to spread terror. "By savage irony, that policy was from first to last a dismal failure. Time after time, hardly had the main Assurian army withdrawn from a vanquished nation, leaving behind a mangled citizenry, than revolt flared."[24]

Adding to the natural migrations taking place, the Assyrians shuffled people around the empire on a massive scale, to obtain labor and enforce security. The Bible laments the fact that Israelites were dispersed in Assyria [Iraq], while "people from Babylon, Cutha, Avva, Hameth, and Sepherva'im" were placed in Samaria.[24] As many as 4 million people may have been displaced. In fact after a brutal campaign against the Aramaeans of Damascus, the Assyrians dispersed them throughout the region -- and on the whole these people then devoted themselves to trade. The Aramaic language then became a kind of lingua franca in the Judo-Arabian peninsula.[25]

The last great Assyrian warrior was Ashurbanipal, who murdered his brother and fed his enemies to dogs, pigs, vultures, eagles and fish. After reigning for 43 years, upon his death, the seething hatred against anything Assyrian extinguished the empire. Semitic Chaldeans formed an aggressive alliance with the Indo-European Medes, and with the Scythian horsemen invading from the north, the last of the Assyrian armies was finished off at Carchemish in 612 BC.

In the fertile crescent, the Babylonians moved in swiftly under Nebuchadnezzar II {King N} and in the east, the Persians, settling in ancient Elam as vassals of the Medes, filled the vacuum. In Judah, in spite of warnings from the great lamentor prophet, Jeremiah, King Zedekiah ignored his own promise to pay tribute to the Chaldean. King N laid siege to Jerusalem, and took 10,000 Jews as hostages. Yet only a decade later, Zedekiah conspired with Phoenicians and Egypt to oust King N. The Babylonians marched again, and this time utterly destroyed Jerusalem and removed its inhabitants into slavery in Babylonia.[29]

In turn, the Chaldean empire of Babylon did not last long. After King N died in 562 BC, the world was to see the rise of a Persian prince who cast off the Medean yoke, and embarked on a campaign that would overwhelm Babylonia. Cyrus the Great created the greatest empire the world had yet seen.[29]


The Hyksos were a collection of Semitic tribes that emerged from the desert around 1700 BC and seized Egypt from the rule of the Pharoahs.[31] These barbarians, however, immediately took to Egyptian ways, which beguiled them. They employed the priests, adopted their religion, and treated the people with cruelty.

This Semitic conquest of Egypt shook the nation out of its torpor. The Asiatic armory was carefully studied -- chain armor, battle axes, composite bows, and light spoke-wheeled chariots. The Hyksos also introduced the upright loom, and such musical instruments as the lute, the lyre, the oboe and the tamorine.

From the south, an Egyptian force in 1573 successfully liberated Egypt from the occupiers, and then for the next century launched Egypt into empire that stretched to its greatest extent -- some 2000 miles, from Syria to the deep cataracts of the upper Nile. Under a female leader, Egypt would prosper and achieve unsurpassed opulence. Under a strange, misshapen ruler, Egypt would survive religious upheaval in the form of monotheism and relocations of capitols.

In the south, Nubia was conquered and ruled by viceroys who remained so faithful to Egyptian ideas and institutions that Nubia would remain more Egyptian than Egypt when it had fallen to foreigners centuries later.[33]


A human tide of hordes from the plains of the Black Sea/Asia Minor region poured across the peninsula, and into what is today Greece. These Indo-European invaders were horsemen, skilled in handling chariots. By 1600 BC the immigrants combined with natives to form a distinctive and strikingly bellicose culture, the Mycenae.{69} The Greeks learned bronze and ceramic work from the Minoan settlements, and adopted their linear script. They became sea-bourne fairers. In 1450 BC a volcanic eruption destroyed most of Crete's ports and fleets. Myceneans ruled the Aegean.

The Middle East itself suffered the same barbaric invasion of war-loving migratory charioteers -- the Mitanni, Kassites, and Hyksos. Here the invaders adopted the civilizations of Babylon and Egypt. They remained land-bound.

Egypt emerged as the dominant civilization, rich with Nubian gold and exports. Trade flourished. But after 1400 BC as the Egyptian empire entered decline, the lords of Mycenae blurred the distinction between trade and outright piracy. Large-scale sea raids became frequent. {71} An impregnable fortress was built at Mycenae, seat of the most powerful of the early Greek kingdoms, overlooking the Argive plain in the Peloponnesus. {73} The period is remarkable for its material uniformity--of arts, diet, weapons, pottery. Most of the slaves were women - skilled in textile and culinary arts, as well as music and sex. There was no merchant class--the lords controlled the trades and warfare. The gulf between king and subjects was wide--illustrated in the burials.

By the time of the Trojan War, the entire Mediterranean world seethed with piracy and revolution. The Philistines conquered the coast of Palestine.{78} Phrygians from Thrace in the Balkans, destroyed the Hittites. By 1140 BC, barbarians from central Macedonia swept into Epirus and Thessaly, driving out the indigenous tribes. The displaced persons, known collectively as Dorians, were poor illiterate shepherds and hunters. They flooded south, and one by one, looted the citadels of Mycenae. These conquerors rejected civilized habits and seafaring opportunities, continuing to live in tents and huts, worshiping tribal gods. Bound by kinship, feud and "the vendetta reigned supreme". {79}

By 1000 BC, the Dorians had overrun and destroyed the cities of the Mycenae. Only in the mountain region of Arcadia in central Peloponnesus, were bands of Mycenaeans clinging to their ways. And in the east, an area overlooked by the Dorians (as not favorable to shepherd life), the rising city of Athens became a haven for refugees. The fugitives became known as Ionians. With their colonies, they would eventually blossom into the Hellenic civilization of classical Greece.

The Ionians saw the ruins of a glorious past, and their bards challenged people to emulate the magnificence of the ancient kingdoms. A 9th century Ionian composed the sagas that defined the spirit of the new culture -- Homer's the Iliad and the Odyssey. "The effect of these two poems was profound...became basic to the Greek concept of life." {80} The ideals grew into a unifying force.

In the Near East, in spite of the migratory barbarian upheavals, the legacy of the earlier Bronze Age was preserved by Egypt. And in the 11th century, the independent kingdom of the Philistines reached its apex, and Israel under Kings David and Solomon, achieved its pinnacle a century later. The Syrian states of Hama and Damascus prospered, and the Semitic Phoenicians sent mariners throughout the Mediterranean. They brought the gift of an alphabet to Attica about 750 BC and the Greeks immediately adopted it for use well beyond commercial transactions -- writing down epics and their theologies, such as Hesiod's Theogony. The nine principal gods were developed. [81}

"As the great migrations came to an end, a new political world was beginning to emerge from the shadows of the dark age." [81} The Ionians contrived a system of government that fostered cooperation. Their central institution was the POLIS, the self-governing city-state. Instead of accepting autocratic rule (e.g. Mycenae), Ionian settlements elected representative councils to assist leaders in making decisions.

The Dorians dominated the mainland, and they also accepted the Polis system as they abandoned their wanderings. Tribal leaders transformed into landed aristocrats too strong for a single king to dominate, and real authority was taken by a council. Former tribal kinship became Citizenship. By the 7th century, commerce experienced a real revival. The rise of "free people", called Metics, enhanced the crafts and trades. They entered the battlefield as Hoplites, with light shield locked in a phalanx, and swept the aristocratic cavalry from the field. Within the phalanx, all were equal, and dependent upon each other. They defended the Polis, each farmer then feeling he had a stake in the future of his city.

The Dorians of Sparta put the phalanx to greatest use. By 800 BC, Sparta annexed the entire region of Laconia. The lawmaker, Lycurgus, wrote the Constitution, for the sole purpose of strengthening and enlarging the phalanx. The power of Sparta's two hereditary kings was reduced and placed into the hands of an assembly -- every arm's bearing citizen of Sparta, the "equals". {84} Councilors, aged sixty or older were elected to advise the body.

The state-owned serfs, known as helots, farmed the estates of the citizens. One Spartan hoplite, with this support, devoted himself to training and was considered to be equal to a dozen from any other Polis. {85}

Athens faced the same problems afflicting other regions. By the 7th century, a growing population produced food shortages and "a resulting indebtedness that forced many citizens into slavery". {85}

Wealthy landowners seized small farms, reducing the poor to penury. By 594 BC, on the brink of civil war, Athenians appointed a poet to revise the laws. Solon started by first forgiving all debts and forbidding further debt slavery.{86} Thucydides notes that tyrants would take over as wealth increased. The minting of coinage coincided with an "epidemic of tyrannies" in the 7th and 6th centuries. The tyrants did not permit the distribution of wealth, nor resolve the explosive over-population issues.{87}

Greece began forming colonies throughout the region. Trade and information enhanced the prosperity of both colony and polis. Here, the notion of citizenship and the open market met in the Polis, and Greece became the first "western civilization", the model for Rome and the modern nation-state.{88}


Etruscans in the West and Phoenicians in the entire region of the Mediterranean.

"The Phoenicians did not start as seafarers. Their ancestors were part of a large group of Semitic people who, by 3000 BC, had migrated into a region later to be known as Canaan...".[99} The rocky coast provided unusually fine anchorages, and choice lumber from large stands of cedar, cypress and pine on the forested slopes of the Lebanese mountains. {100}

As a result of the dye factories, the murex became virtually extinct in Mediterranean waters.

The Phoenicians built the Temple of Solomon {105}, and an Israeli trading fleet {106} which brought gold, silver, ivory and apes back from Ophir. The Phoenicians practiced three deities in temples used as the model for Solomon. {107} They practiced temple prostitution, and in the topheth ("place of sacrifice"), young children were sometimes bound and killed to redeem imagined sins. {107}

"A more benign aspect of the Phoenicians' culture was the efficient writing system that they developed around 1000 BC." {107. The simplified alphabet meant that literacy was no longer limited to a class of scribes who had studied for many years to master the complex signs of the cuneiform or hieroglyphic forms.

After the Phoenician levant was destroyed by Aramaeans, "Sea Peoples" (including the warlike Philistines {101), and invaded successively by Egyptians, the Phoenicians rebuilt, but resorted increasingly to the sea. By the time Assyria conquered the region (Phoenician kings depicted on leashes {109}), the colonial cities such as Carthage were the hubs of the empire.

After the collapse of the Assyrian empire in 612, only three years later, Egypt seized the entire region, followed by Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar II, who enslaved the Jews in 587 BC, and then destroyed the island fortress of Tyre, in spite of its 13 additional years of "doughty resistance".{109}

The Phocaean Greek presence at Massalia (Marseille) ignited the first serious fighting between Carthaginians and Greeks {112} It was in this conflict, that Carthage looked for allies and turned to the Etruscans who controlled much of the Italian peninsula. In 535 BC near Alalia a fleet of 60 Phocaeans ships encountered a combined force of Etruscan and Carthaginian war vessels almost twice as large. Their defeat ended Greek designs on the western Mediterranean.

Etruscans spoke a language unlike any other found in the Mediterranean basin.{113} Unlike Greeks and Carthaginians, the Etruscans were blessed with a fruitful homeland and the Appennine range rich with veins of iron and copper. The hardwood forests of oak and beech enabled them to smelt the ore. The Greeks were their eager customers, who shared their alphabet, seamanship, arts, and olive oil. Etruscan tombs contain more Greek vases than have been discovered in Greece. {114}

Contrast Greek art, tending to cool formality and Etruscan art, tending to exuberance and love of color. Much time spent at banquets, dancing to music. The 4th century BC Greek historian "Theopompos" accuses the Etruscans of a wide variety of luxury-loving lustful love-making. He also describes very rich and the poor, with no broad middle group of well-off citizens. {117}

For centuries the disparity in wealth between aristocrats and the rest of the people caused strife, only alleviated by expansion into new areas for the poor to live and work. Their founded communities are now famous centers of Italian art -- Bologna, Mantua, Ravenna, Rimini and Florence.{188}

The Etruscans expanded down the coast into Latium and fertile Campania. At a bend in the Tiber River, a non-Etruscan indigenous folk had established a hill town, Rome. It fell under Etruscan control, and adopted Etruscan technologies but it always retained its own language and culture. Finally, assisted by Greek allies, the Romans achieved independence in 509 BC. At that point, Etruscan expansion stopped. By the 1st century, Etruria was little more than a memory.

"Seldom in human history has such a flourishing and important civilization been so nearly obliterated by a culture succeeding it". {118 - but cf. Phoenicia, and Tamerlane Islam and the Silk Road civilization}.

{Eventually the Romans, with a civilization constantly hinging on the reciprocation of dignities between patrician and plebeian, would conquer the known world.}

The legacy of the Phoenicians: "...for 1,000 years the Phoenicians, opening markets in every corner of the Mediterranean, had expanded trade and communication throughout the ancient world. In doing so, they had changed that world prodoundly." {118}


An ancient hymn of the Aryan nomads from the 2d millenium BC poses thoughtful questions: "There was neither death nor immortality then. There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day...Darkness was hidden by darkness...Whence was [the universe] produced?...The one who looks down upon it, in the highest heaven, only he knows--or perhaps he does not know."

The riddles of existence eloquently and gracefully pondered. These Aryan invaders trekking over the Hindu Kush mountains into northern India were equipped with spoke-wheeled chariots and literature, both of which overwhelmed the indigenous tribes. {127}

These tall fair-skinned nomadic invaders built no cities or political structures. They had no writing system. They left no artwork, no grave goods. {128} However, they were poets, and they left a "stunningly rich body of poetry" preserved through oral traditions alone. Their Sanskrit verses now embody the unique culture of India. The strictly metered verses were memorized in their schools -- Aryan children sitting for hours echoing back to the priests, line by line. Later collected in anthologies known as Vedas ("books of knowledge"), they give their name to the entire period of Aryan domination in India -- the Vedic age.

Over the centuries, the Aryans intermarried with the dark-skinned Dravidians, and the pure Aryan race is now extinct in the region. The Indo-Aryan Sanskrit spoken today has many elements traceable to Dravidian tongues.{128} The caste concept emerged after cities and monarchies developed and the people were no longer republican tribes.{137, 135 sabha, samiti - no mention of sudras/dasas}

The way of life of Hinduism is a multicreed mix of religions. The Aryan invaders helped create a society that subsequently absorbed many other invasions, but the world of Hindu India remains remarkably immutable.

On the north China plain along the banks of the Yellow River, a distinctly Chinese civilization was becoming clear, and became its core.{129} The first line of rulers were known as the Shang dynasty {~1750 BC conquest of the Xia}, but even after a new people called the Zhou took over, China remained the same -- an organized land of small farming villages and self-contained walled towns, inhabited by people who worshiped ancestors, made human sacrifices, and developed glorious artwork and a form of inscription.{139}

Iron was yet unknown, and there was no literature. They grew hemp and cotton, maintain extensive irrigation canals, and cultivated silk worms. Society was a network of clans bound by ancestor worship, extended families lived together in pit dwellings. The king was the supreme poltiical, judicial , military, and religious figure in the Chinese state -- but he ruled through a cadre of bureaucrats. The civli service occupied an important role in the control of "the Middle Kingdom".{141, 140} The funerary rites conducted in the last days of the Shang have seldom been surpassed for "splendor and savagery". {142} Near the capital of Anyang, a huge pit 40 feet deep was floored with an inlaid and lacquered floor consecrated by the sacrifice of nine armed guards, watchdogs, and over sixty decapitated attendants or prisoners. Buildings were consecrated with ritual slaughter of as many as 600 victims.{147} Shang religious expression tended toward violence {146}.

As it was with the Aryans, war was a way of life for the people of the Middle Kingdom. In peacetime, the gentry spent fully half their time in pursuit of game in hunting parties.{146}

In Chinese writing, each character represents a word, and most of the words were each a single syllable. Compare, hieroglyphs and cuneiform scripts which came to represent syllables, which would combine to represent different words.{146}

The belief that China was a superior realm surrounded by disorderly barbarians appears to pervade the civilization.


America's continents were occupied during this period by small bands of nomads. By 4000 BC they began to form settlements in permanent locations.

By the 2d millenium BC, the first American civilizations emerged, the Olmecs in Mesoamerica, and the Chavin in the Peruvian Andes.{149}


"Civilization came first to Peru, a land of extremes like no other on earth." The world's richest fishing ground next to a coastal desert so dry that rainfall is unknown for lifetimes. {150} Inland are the highest peaks of the hemisphere -- 22,000 feet -- plunging to the east to the rain-forest drained by "the world's largest and mightiest river, the Amazon."

In these circumstances, trade was almost a necessity. Coastal people, with little arable land, traded fish meal for inland root crops. Valley farmers cultivated a cotton plant crossbred with a domesticated Asian variety (a fact established recently from chromosomal studies), and traded for highland llama skins and gold mined in the mountains.

The first temple complexes were built at trading centers and were oriented around fire. The focus was a circular pit inside a sanctum atop stone-faced rectangular clay mounds.{151-152} As techniques for producing ceramics, forging metal-work, and corn cultivation increased, the sanctification of fire seemed to decrease. {153}

Fresh religious notions focusing on water gradually developed, and people replaced the smoke-filled complexes with modified centers dominated by the sounds of water -- building large-scale canals for large-scale agriculture. El Paraiso, by the mouth of the Chillon, a U-shaped complex. La Florida build around 1750 BC in the lower Rimac.

Finally, a new cult evolved into "a brilliant synthesis that melded many social, religious, and artistic elements" into a coherent whole. Scholars now call this the Chavin, which reached a peak near Chavin de Huantar, built at a venerable junction of trails between coast, highlands, and jungle. By 1000 BC the Chavin spread as far south as LIma. At the Huantar temple complex, constructed over 500 years, interior galleries reverberated to the thunderous roar of rushing water - from underground canals fed from glacial run-off. {157}

Priests ruled the people, and lived on terraces surrounding the temples. They used hallucinaogens -- cacti, and coca. {157, Ayuhuasca is not mentioned.}

At the apogee of its power, the Chavin world dissolved. "No clues were left to tell future generations why this first American civilization ended..." {158}. "Every major Andean deity from then till the coming of the Europeans {I have to add, that did not end the influence} bore a resemblance to the glowering god in the temple at Chavin de Huantar." {158}


The Mesoamericans had developed agriculture, but did not give up nomadic ways and form cities until about 2000 BC. Instead of trading foodstuffs, which were abundant, they traded precious stones, and crafts. They modeled little female figures in clay. {158}

Then, around 1400 BC, Mesoamerica experienced "a sudden surge of energy and imagination that produced a swift flowering of monumental art and architecture". {159} The Olmecs were responsible for the rise of the first complex society in North America.{159} They created magnificent public works. In stonework, they carved with realism unknown to the Peruvians to the South.

The fashioned immense stone heads, some weighing 20 tons and standing 9 feet high. They are portraits -- strong, thck-lipped, broad-nosed men wearing helmets. These images appeared around 1200 BC near the coast along the Gulf of Mexico. {160, the authors fail to note a connection to the Ghanian naval expeditions of this period, but alude to the "baby-face" theory).

Around 900 BC San Lorenzo was utterly destroyed. The heads were toppled, defaced, and even deliberately buried.{183} Other Olmec centers remained, for example, at Copalillo in the mountains of southwestern Mexico, they constructed what may be the first stone temple of Mesoamerica, out of huge travertine marble blocks fitted flush against one another without mortar. {183} At La Venta, the surrounding villages may have been home to 10,000 people. There, they built a huge cone of colored clays upon which erected temples, and collosal heads adorned the plaza.

The people wore almost no clothes, but paid great attention to adornment. They pierced their earlobes and septums. They wore concave magnetite mirrors, and started fires with polished stones. They devised the first calendar in the Americas-- a "long count" form which enabled them to transmit a chronologically correct sequence of history. (187, Their successors, the Aztecs, had a calendar with only 52 year cycles.)

The Olmecs accomplished their work without wheels, without any beasts of burden, and with no codified laws on stone or paper.

The Indians of the Gulf Coast continue to travel to Copalillo and La Venta to make offerings and pray. ( )
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Human beings always have been a restless species, making their way from mountain to plain, from valley to valley, from one corner of the planet to another in search of better hunting, greener pastures, someone else's cattle, richer ores, more water, wealth a chance to get in a fight, freedom, an opportunity to exploit other people, or any of dozens of other goals that have inspired individuals, families, tribes, or whole nations to pack up and move.
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Describes the historical events and the various civilizations that flourished throughout the world, with emphasis on the Mediterranean area, from 1500 to 600 B.C.

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