Bronze Age 1: Rise of Civilization.  S/T: ENG – ESP – FRA.

Bronze Age 1: Rise of Civilization. S/T: ENG – ESP – FRA.

5,000 years ago, a simple innovation
transformed the ancient world. One that was so versatile and so valuable,
it generated wealth on a global scale,… …sparked international trade,… …and ushered in
the rise of civilization. To get civilization, you need basically 3 things:
you need cities and towns, irrigation and water,… …and you need some sort
of a new invention. And it turns out that, about 3000 BC,
that new invention is bronze,… …and that kick-starts
a whole new age. Throughout the ancient world, the Bronze Age
arose in different places, at different times. From roughly 2,000 BC in China,… …to 3300 BC
in parts of the Near East,… …it’s an era defined by the
widespread use of bronze,… …created through a mixture
of copper and tin. Well, the new technology of bronze,
we don’t really know what prompted it. If you’ve got what we call “native copper”
– it’s copper with arsenic in it –… …and if you heat it up,
it actually does make bronze. The problem is, if you heat up something with
arsenic in it here, you’re not going to live very long. So, they quickly figured out
that if you replace the arsenic with tin,… …in a ratio of 90% copper to 10% tin,… …that you will get bronze,
and you won’t die while making it. Bronze was more durable
than any other metal,… …and more useful
than gold or silver. The ancients could use it
to make agricultural tools,… …hunting spears, and daggers. They also created
ornamental grave goods,… …drinking vessels, jewelry,
and weapons for war. So, prior to the Bronze Age,
in the Neolithic period,… …people’s wealth was in agricultural produce,
textiles, pottery, that kind of thing. And those can be transferred and hoarded
to an extent, but they kind of go bad after a while. Clothes rip,… …cattle die. Metal is a new kind of wealth,
that was not seen before. Metal is a wealth
that can be displayed,… …and that can be used, but its value
doesn’t go down when it is worn. It can be melted again,
and made into something else. The Bronze Age is a moment
where people are starting to use… …this combination of tin and copper
on a more regular basis,… …and that’s what sort of historically
has given us the name of the Bronze Age,… …but it is, more specifically,
and more importantly,… …a moment where connections
are being made between societies… …on a much broader scale,
reaching across the sea, reaching across land. Diplomacy, as we think of it now,… …really has its roots
in the Bronze Age. In the region that includes the Mediterranean,
the Aegean, Mesopotamia, and Egypt,… …the Bronze Age arrived
around 3000 BC,… …and lasted nearly 2,000 years. Bronze and other metals
helped to fuel the rise of the first true cities. These centers of power
were ruled by a group of elites: … …royal families,… …wealthy landowners,… …merchants,… …and temple managers. In the early Bronze Age,… …settlements weren’t much larger than about
two and a half acres in today’s measurement. Probably, groups
of around 150, 200 people. Then, towards the Middle Bronze Age, you get
what some archeologists have called Big Men,… …people controlling the surplus,
storing it, extracting taxation from people,… …and then, in the Late Bronze Age,
you get people moving into much larger cities,… …like Knossos and Mycenae; at their height, probably had around 12,000 to 17,000 people,… …which is around a mid-sized city
today. So, by the time we get to the Late Bronze Age,
we’re in relatively sophisticated civilizations. We’re not on the level of today,
of course, with the technology, but… …at places like Knossos and Crete,
where you’ve got the Minoans,… …they’ve got a sewer system,…
they’ve got running water,… …and they’ve got international trade
around the Mediterranean. So, they’re actually quite sophisticated,
considering it’s 3,000 years ago. During the Bronze Age, the population
of Egypt’s ancient capital, Thebes,… …swelled to 80,000 people. And in Mesopotamia,… …a region that developed along the banks
of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers,… …the city of Uruk had an equal number
of inhabitants at the height of its power. Perhaps it would be more apt to call it
something like the Urban Age,… …the period when urban societies
first emerged,… …anywhere in the world,
as far as we know. You have economic specialization,
where people are not just all food producers,… …but actually have different specialized
professions, or jobs, and so forth. That’s part of this phenomenon. When human societies
become, not just… …people of relatively equal social status,
but rather you have… …an elite, and you have a middle class, and you have
a lower class, and you have slaves, all that. That’s also part of this phenomenon. To keep these highly stratified societies
running efficiently,… …new systems were developed: … …large-scale farming
and manufacturing,… …organized religion,… …government administration,… …law, and taxation. They’ve got laws, they’ve got jurisprudence,
they’ve got all sorts of things that we would… …associate with today. So, for example, around 1800 BC,
we’ve got Hammurabi, King of Babylon. In things like Hammurabi’s law code
we’ve got regulations… …that really hit home today: … …divorce, marriage,
runaway slaves, upon occasion,… …what to do in the case of debt,
for example. So, we’ve got society
as we know it. During the Bronze Age,… …many new technologies
and inventions were created… …to meet the needs
of these increasingly complex societies,… …including the earliest
writing systems… Writing developed first, probably,… …in the Sumerian cities of southern Iraq,
southern Mesopotamia,… …although, in Egypt,
writing developed about the same time,… …independently, but there was interaction
between the Sumerians and the Egyptians. Basically, all of these civilizations,… …that developed
these urban-based complex societies,… …developed writing for the elites
to control and to administer… …the complex transactions
that were taking place. So, initially, a lot of writing
had to do with products… …that are coming into the palace,
or the temple products going out,… …keeping track
of the tax revenue coming in,… …keeping track
of the produce going out. So, this is an initial
sort of purpose for writing. Mesopotamian writing
started actually… …as what you might call a “logographic” system,
where each character stood for a word. So, if you wanted to represent the word “water”,
you’d have a symbol that stood for “water”. And very often these symbols were also”pictographic”,
meaning it was a picture… …of the actual object
being represented. But not every character
was pictographic. The character for “sheep” is a circle
with a cross in the middle,… …and it’s not a picture of a sheep! So they just…
Somehow, they came up with the symbol,… …but the point was
that the word “sheep” got its own character. This logographic system
worked in the early Bronze Age,… …but with nearly a thousand characters,
memorizing all of them proved too inefficient. Over time, a new system developed… …into what’s known as “cuneiform”. “Cuneiform”, that comes from the Latin,
it means “wedge-shaped”. But think about a bird stepping in ink, and walking across the page, that’s kind of what you’ve got. Except that it’s made with reeds
being pushed into wet clay. And the tablets are small,
kind of pillow-shaped. So, instead of a curvy line
for the sign for “water”,… …you would just have 2 wedges,
making a straight line. There is a sign for “fish”,
but it gets turned into a set of wedges,… …and you’d never have known that, originally,
it was making the shape of a fish. In Egypt, one of the pictographic
writing systems survived,… …and eventually developed
into Egyptian hieroglyphics. When we look at cuneiform vs. Egyptian hieroglyphics,
we see a real difference. And that is that, with cuneiform,
it began as administrative use,… …so it was really meant for writing on tablets,
so very small sort of medium,… …whereas, with Egyptian hieroglyphics,
a very different purpose from the very beginning. That kind of writing was meant for
monumental sculpture, monumental paintings,… …so the actual writing
had to be large,… …and because it accompanied
these artworks, it had to be artful. So, what we see in Egypt
is a long development… …of hieroglyphic writing
as an art form. In Egypt and Mesopotamia, large central institutions,
such as the palace and temple,… …evolved into highly sophisticated
administrative centers. The Bronze Age elites
who ruled these institutions… …were acquiring a surplus of food and other goods
from the rest of the population,… …while employing huge numbers of people
to help run their cities. Raw materials were also coming into city centers
through extensive trade networks. Writing allowed civilizations to prosper
with better record-keeping,… …stronger taxation,… …and greater communications
over long distances. Letters, contracts,
and other important texts, were written… …with the help of an elite class
of professional scribes. To be trained as a scribe, you had to go
through rather rigorous years of schooling. And there are texts,
both from Mesopotamia and Egypt,… …that talk about
what it was like to go to school,… …to learn how to read and write.
And it wasn’t fun! It was usually reserved for boys. Occasionally, you know of girls, women,
who could read and write. It wasn’t that common. And, in general, it does seem to have been limited
to a small number of people,… …and I suppose they had a pretty good lifestyle, compared to most people. In the Egyptian texts,
they talked about… It’s the kind of… These texts are advertisements
for a scribal way of life, and they talk about… …how horrible it is to be a farmer,
how dangerous it is to be a soldier. Be a scribe!
You’ll do really well! You know, it’s like, I guess, the equivalent
of… like telling your kids to be a doctor,… …there’s job security,
and you’ll get paid pretty well! So, there would have been
resident scribes at these palaces,… …and they are responsible for very, very,… …ahh… important
diplomatic relationships. And in the same way that you can imagine
a translator at the UN today has an incredible load,… …these scribes also
had an incredible weight on them,… …to… to be able to kind of handle
the finesses of correspondence… …between very important people in the world at that time The scribes recorded the yearly histories
for the kings and rulers. They recounted celebrations,
campaigns, and conquests. They also drafted letters
from one ruler to another. A lot of the letters start out with:
“SAY TO Amenhotep, King of Egypt,…” “THUS SAYS to Shradha, King of…” And what is happening is, the scribe…
– one scribe is telling the other scribe –… …to read this out loud,
because the King can’t read! Sometimes – on a couple of them –
we have a handwritten ink inscription,… …from one scribe to another. Hey, Joe, it’s Phil!
How’s the wife and kids? Ahh,… by the way, when you read this out loud,
please emphasize the third line down, you know. Look forward
to hearing from you again! And so, we’ve got these private messages,
that the Kings never knew! Now it doesn’t happen that often,
but just enough to instill the humanity… …in these dry and dusty documents. In the Aegean, where the Minoans flourished
during the Middle Bronze Age,… …a large number of scribes and bureaucrats
helped run the day-to-day operations of the palace. Writing also played an important role
in Minoans’ ritual life,… …and their extensive system of trade. Cretan hieroglyphic develops on Crete,
and then, probably just a little bit later,… …we have “Linear A” developing. A very exciting name for what it seems to be,
essentially, a cursive version of Cretan hieroglyphic. And these are active
in different parts of the island. And neither of these scripts
have been deciphered. To the north of Crete,
the Mycenaean culture… …rose on the mainland of Greece,
toward the end of the Middle Bronze Age,… …and into the Late Bronze Age. The Mycenaeans adapted the Minoan
“Linear A” system, to create “Linear B”,… …which is now known
to record an early form of Greek. Unlike Linear A,
Linear B has been deciphered. We now can read
Linear B documents. So we have the wages that are being given
to different workers within the palace,… …we have record of dedications
that are being made at different shrines, etc. So, they are not very exciting,
just by themselves,… …but they can be opened up
to really help us understand… …how the Mycenaean palace system…
how it worked. And that has been incredibly useful. One of the most interesting accounts
in the Linear B archives… …is this account of a priestess {Eritha}
who is arguing with the Damos, the city. And the city says: … “You owe us the produce
of your agricultural land.” “You need to give that to the palace.” And Eritha says:
“No, that land belongs to the God.” “You have absolutely no right to tax me.
I’m not paying.” So we have, in the Linear B records,
evidence of a conflict between the religious sphere… …and the political sphere. And an evidence of a woman,
kind of stepping up, and asserting her power. Linear B was used by the Mycenaeans
for just 200 years, mainly for administration . Other forms of writing,
such as poetry or literature, never developed. That’s because Mycenae, along with many
of the Mediterranean and Near East palace societies,… …largely disappeared, after a violent and
mysterious collapse, that began around 1190 BC. There are mentions in Egyptian texts of the Sea People.
We don’t know who these people are. Ahh… There is mention in the Linear B texts
of sending men to the coast,… …to kind of keep an eye,… …but we don’t know if this was standard practice,
or if they were in a state of alarm. The fires that destroyed the palaces
baked the Linear B tablets, which were on wet clay,… …and which otherwise
would probably have been discarded,… …after the necessary record-keeping
had happened. So they give us the snapshot of life
right at the very end,… …and we don’t really see
a state of alarm. What appeared to be once-thriving palaces
and city-states were completely destroyed,… …and with the collapse, the need for writing
and record-keeping disappeared as well. And this brings in what we call
– from hindsight – the Dark Ages. This is a moment
where we do not have written texts to refer to. Now, there was a great deal going on
during the Dark Ages. It’s just that
the lights are turned out… …on one of our principal ways of accessing
these past societies, which is decipherable texts. In the Aegean, writing wasn’t seen
for another 400 years,… …until the Greeks made contact
with the Phoenicians. From the Phoenician alphabet,
they developed the Greek alphabet. Eventually, alphabetic writing
spread to all of Europe, and beyond. What was once the domain of scribes
and other elites during the Bronze Age,… …finally became accessible
to the common man.

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