RTW Timeline: Prehistory and the Earliest Civilizations

After seeing so many interesting sites and learning many facts about places all around the world, we thought it would be interesting to arrange the different places and events on a timeline to provide more of a context for the different highlights.

The first installment of our timeline series will cover the oldest things we saw on the entire trip. In case you’re wondering, this only includes human activity; obviously we saw many natural wonders around the world that are much older.

2.5 – 2.1 million years ago – The Age of the “Mrs Ples” hominid fossil found in Sterkfontein Caves, outside Johannesburg, South Africa

The Cradle of Humankind is an area where many remains of our most ancient ancestors have been found (including a recent discovery). We visited the cave where some of the most famous remains were discovered as part of our visit to the park on the very last stop of our self-drive safari.

One of the hominid fossils from the Cradle of Humankind

One of the hominid fossils from the Cradle of Humankind

Around 4000 B.C. – San people inhabit the Twyfelfontein area and make rock carvings

The site of Twyfelfontein (//Uis-//Ais in the native language) in Namibia contains rock engravings from the San people (a.k.a Bushmen) dated from 2000 to over 6000 years old.

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2560 BC – Pyramids of Giza constructed

We were able to view these ancient wonders of the world during our brief layover in Cairo at the very beginning of the trip.

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Around 2500 BC – The Cycladic culture in the Greek islands produces unique figurines

Around the same time that the pyramids were being built, in islands around the Aegean Sea, an emerging culture was making these distinctively-shaped sculptures. We saw examples of these at the National Archeological Museum in Athens.

Cycladic figurines

Cycladic figurines

16th Century BC – Grave Circle A at Mycenae Formed

1000 years later, the dominant culture on the Pelopponesian Peninsula of Greece was what we now refer to as the Mycenaean culture. These are supposedly the people who fought against Troy in the Trojan War. The site of Mycenae is now in ruins, but some evidence remains to give you a feel for their culture. They buried their dead nobility in grave circles which were filled with treasure. The famous archaeologist Henry Schliemann thought this grave circle was the final resting place of Agamemnon, who led the Mycenaeans against Troy.

Grave Circle A

Grave Circle A

1450 BC – What is now called the Obelisk of Theodosius set up by Thutmose III in Karnak, Egypt

We saw this obelisk in Istanbul, in the ruins of the ancient Hippodrome. It was brought to Constantinople by Roman Emperor Theodosius in the 4th Century AD, but was originally erected in Egypt.

The Hippodrome

The Hippodrome

13th Century BC – Lion Gate at Mycenae built

Back in Mycenae (the site of Grave Circle A), probably the most famous feature is the Lion Gate, the main entrance to citadel. It was build about three centuries after Grave Circle A.

The Lion Gate

The Lion Gate

Around 1250 BC – “Treasury of Atreus” tholos tomb built at Mycenae

In the later years of Mycenae, the main style of the grand tombs was the tholos tomb, built in the shape of a beehive with a large, domed interior. The largest is what Henry Schliemann deemed the “Treasury of Atreus.”

The Treasury of Atreus

The Treasury of Atreus

Around 1200 BC – Palaces at Mycenae Destroyed

Not too long after the last monumental structures were built at Mycenae, the civilization collapsed and the citadel and its palaces were destroyed.

The remains of the palace

The remains of the palace

Around 1000 BC – The Basketmaker People Settle the Mesa Verde Region

Meanwhile, in North America, the culture that archaeologists refer to as the “Basketmakers” settled in the Mesa Verde region. They didn’t leave behind any iconic structures, but we know they were in the area based on remnants of baskets and other agricultural and hunting relics.

One of the canyons in Mesa Verde

One of the canyons in Mesa Verde

 

That wraps our first installment of our RTW Timeline series. Our next post will take us back to Greece and observe the emergence of one of history’s most famous civilizations.

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