Uncovering Ancient East Civilizations !
Exploring the Ancient East!
Ancient Eastern civilizations were filled with stunning cities and architecture. Yet much of their history has seemed to be undocumented, with few records left behind. Some of the incredible findings and civilizations that have been uncovered include: Mohenjo Daro, a metropolis skillfully built with bricks, Shimao in northern China, and Fujiwara-kyo; Japan’s first major city! (Daniels; p.64) Let’s take a deeper dive into what we do know about the mysteries and discoveries uncovered in the ancient east!
Mohenjo Daro: Brick City
Our journey of the ancient east begins at, Mohenjo Daro. Located east in the Indus River Valley, inhabitants were forming a well organized city of bricks. Today, this city is known as Mohenjo Daro; set in Northern India and Pakistan, and inhabited by the Indus civilization. This area encountered incredible growth throughout the third millennium B.C. (Daniels; p.66). For example, at the city’s peak, between 20,000 and 40,000 people inhabited the land. (Daniels; p. 66) Moreover, they seemed to have been extremely organized, and held cleanliness as a high priority. My kind of people! 😉 According to the World Heritage Convention; “The Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro are the best preserved urban settlement in South Asia dating back to the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, and exercised a considerable influence on the subsequent development of urbanization.”
Dividing the City
Mohenjo Daro was divided into two segments. First was an organized raised area which included public buildings; Giving a literal meaning to the term, “taking the high road”! Secondly, there was a lower town which included residential houses and workshops. (Daniels; p.66) Despite their ancient times and lack of technology, these civilizations had houses complete with toilets that were then connected to covered drains. (Daniels; p.66) Buildings were situated along streets intersecting one another at right angles, in a highly-orderly form that incorporated systems of sanitation and drainage. Increasingly similar to the streets we’re used to today, Mohenjo Daro had well organized and neatly paved streets running both North & South, and East & West. Additionally, the city included 700 wells that were responsible for providing water to the citizens of the land. (Daniels; p.66) Incredibly impressive resourcefulness in these ancient east times!
No Ruling Class!
Despite the extremely modernized fashion, it seems the city encompassed within its ancient times, what the city DIDN’T include, happened to be even more surprising. Unlike most surrounding civilizations, they didn’t impose a ruling class! This was signified by the lack of palaces or buildings that might have suggested such power or glory. (Daniels; p.66)
Despite the cities rigid organized appearance, few pieces of artwork left behind hinted at a more spirited civilization. For example, a bronze statue of a dancing girl, discovered in Mohenjo Daro in 1926! (Daniels; p.66) Yet along with other Indus civilizations, it seems that Mohenjo Daro vanished abruptly around 2000 B.C. (Daniels; p.66) Archeologists believe this may have been for a number of reasons. One of the more understandable reasons would be due to either a change in direction of the Indus River, or even its potential flooding.
Ancient East: Shimao
Secondly, on our journey of the ancient east, we’ll be heading north of Mohenjo Daro into China. This next finding has made archeologists reconsider early Chinese history all together and remained hidden for almost 4,000 years! (Daniels; p.67,68) The city of Shimao, dates all the way back to 2300 B.C. In other words, 500 years BEFORE the more known settlements of Central China. (Daniels; p. 67) Perfectly stated by Youlin magazine; “The discovery of Shimao is groundbreaking because it not only challenges the origins of Chinese civilization, but also the exchanges which took place between China and the rest of the world during the Neolithic age.”
Unlike Mohenjo Daro who lacked a “ruling class”, archeologists believed Shimao had a powerful one. A 230-foot-high stepped pyramid that once served as the residence for Shimao’s rulers and leading families was uncovered by archeologists. Yet, with all this power it had seemed that the city’s fear of potential threat was apparent throughout the city’s design. For example, surrounding the city were endless miles of 8ft. thick walls, with provisions that signaled defense. Such provisions included guard towers and bastions, reinforced with wooden beams, as well as stone carvings of human faces facing out towards enemies. (Daniels; p.67) Also found around the lands were large quantities of arrowheads. Finally, after what believes to be caused by an incoming dryer climate, those dwelling in Shimao abandoned the city. Leaving behind only small remnants of their history, including Jade from other lands, jewelry, and remains of musical instruments. (Daniels; p.68)
If ever you’ve found that Japanese and Chinese cultures quite closely resemble one another, marking an evident inspiration from one to the other- have you ever wondered how this became so? While we’re on our journey in the ancient east, let’s try and find out!
Chinese Buddhism and Confucian ideals started to be incorporated into Japan’s government in the early 600s. (Daniels; p. 68) Prince Shotoku was notably the first to contribute to these Chinese influences in Japan. Following him, Emperor Tenmu built not only the first permeant palace but also Japan’s first urban center during the 670s. (Daniels; p.68) Previous to this, Japan’s rulers were known to build new palaces in different locations every time an emperor died. Yet contrary to Japan’s historic fashion, both Emperor Tenmu and his wife and successor, Empress Jito, set their plans on building a more permanent capital.
Emperor Tenmu unfortunately passed before his dreams were finished being materialized. Yet his wife successfully carried out their plan. Finally, turning their dreams into a reality, the capital was created. Its name; Fujiwara-Kyo: “Capital of the Wisteria Plain”. (Daniels; p.70) The capital included a 250-acre complex complete with government buildings, and the emperor’s residence. However, the audience hall happened to be Japan’s largest building, at an impressive 148ft wide and 82 ft high. (Daniels; p. 70)
Furthermore, Fujiwara-Kyo was occupied at times with as many as 20,000 to 30,000 people dwelling within its city. (Daniels; p.70) This lasted until the year 710, when Empress Genmei came into power and had other plans. The Empress moved the capital north of Nara; but not before wiping the city of Fujiwara-kyo of its building materials- leaving the city to remain lost in history until finally being re-discovered in the 1930’s. (Daniels; p.70)
Exiting the Ancient East
For now, this concludes our exciting tour of the mysterious ancient east! We traveled to the brick-built city of Mohenjo-Daro that was void of any ruling class. Following this, we traveled to China, where we explored the stunningly historic land of Shimao; the city that dates ALL the back to 2300 B.C. And finally, we ended our journey in Fujiwara-Kyo! Ideals and influences spread across lands by travelers, emperors, and more have contributed to the evolution of different cultures. And to think, archeologists are STILL uncovering discoveries that are changing the way we’ve considered the creation and development of civilizations! One thing is for sure; as long as archeologists are still discovering these ancient lands and telling about their historic finds, we’ll be here to read and tell all about them! Until next time!
Works Cited & Links
- Daniels, Patricia. “Lost Cities: Treasures of the Ancient World Revealed.” National Geographic (2021)
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