During the Stone Age human learnt to make tools and weapons of stone, bone and wood. They lived in caves and found food by hunting and food-gathering. Later, they learnt about agriculture, domestication of animals and led a settled life. The Stone Age was followed by the Metal Ages - Bronze Age and Iron Age.
Towards the end of the New Stone Age, began the use of metal. Copper was the first metal used by them. The cultures based on the use of both stone and copper are called Chalcolithic Cultures. This is also called Bronze Age because of the invention of bronze in this period which is an alloy of copper and tin. Gradually copper and bronze replaced stone, wood, and bones to some extent for making weapons and implements.
People learnt how to make bricks and use them in construction. These bricks were baked and sun dried. Town-based civilisations came up for the first time in different river valleys. These towns became centers of trade, commerce and administration.
The Bronze Age people had built up great civilisations and made significant contributions. During the Bronze Age, advanced civilisations came up in Mesopotamia, China, Egypt and India.
Mesopotamia was the land lying between two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates, which lie in modern day Iraq. These rivers were often in flood and in this process they deposited a lot of silt which made the land around them very fertile. This resulted in increased food production. The abundant agricultural produce enabled the growth of a number of crafts persons like smiths, potters, masons, weavers and carpenters.
They sold their products and got their necessities from others in exchange. They carried on trade with far-off places like India. Carts, wagons, boats and ships were used for transport and communication. They also developed the art of writing. Their script was a collection of symbols and pictures. They drew wedge-like lines and so this script came to be known as Cuneiform script.
The earliest cities of Mesopotamia were like small states, each with its own administration. The ruling class consisted of priests, kings and aristocrats. Besides them there were merchants, ordinary people and the slaves. The people of Mesopotamia worshiped many gods and goddesses like sky, sun, moon, fertility, etc. Each city had its own patron god or goddess.
Another civilisation arose in Egypt, along the River Nile, which made the land very fertile. The Egyptian kings were called Pharaohs. They had ministers and officers in their service that administered the land and collected taxes for them. The priests enjoyed a very high and honorable position in society. Temples were dedicated to a particular god in each town or city.
The ancient Egyptian script was called Hieroglyphics. Traders and merchants carried on their business both on land and water. There were skilled workers like stone-cutters and carpenters. Egyptians had considerable knowledge of weights and measures.
The Pharaohs built the great monuments of the ancient world - the Pyramids. Since the Egyptians believed in afterlife, they preserved the dead bodies. These were called mummies. The pyramids were built as tombs to keep the mummified bodies of the dead kings.
The Chinese civilisation grew up in the Hwang Ho valley in North China. The first rulers known were the Shangs (1523 BC to 1122 BC), who built China’s first cities. They also contributed to art and culture. The Chinese writing system was developed during this period. Crafts persons of this period, especially the bronze workers were great experts in their fields.
The Shang dynasty was overthrown by the Zhous, who built strong forts and walled towns to defend themselves from invaders. It was during the later phase of the Zhou rule that iron was introduced, thus ending the Bronze Age in China.
In 221 BC, the Chin rulers came to power in China. They ordered the use of common language, common laws and common weights and measures throughout their empire.
After the Chins, the Han dynasty came to power, who ruled till AD 220. It was during this period that Chinese traders had contact with the west through the famous Silk Route, crossing Central Asia and Persia.
The people of China worshipped a number of deities. Worship of ancestors, nature and spirits were very common. In China a famous religious preacher named Confucius advocated a system of right behavior, which greatly influenced Chinese society and government. He laid emphasis on good moral character, respect to elders and loyalty to the family and obedience to the laws of the State.
This ancient civilization was discovered when archaeologists began excavating the sites connected with it in the 1920s. The first sites to be excavated were Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
At present, hundreds of sites of this culture are known. The most important cities were Harappa (Western Punjab), Mohenjo-Daro (Sindh), Lothal (Gujarat), Kalibangan (Rajasthan), Ropar (Punjab), Banawali and Rakhigarhi (Haryana), and Dholavira (Gujarat).