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Around the World

Although the Near East is known as the birthplace of civilization, by the time of Akhenaten other cultures were beginning, some even flourishing, far beyond the boundaries of the world known to the Egyptians.

The Chinese

The ancient Chinese civilization was beginning to develop at the same time as that in predynastic Egypt. By around 3000 BCE, about the time that Narmer united Upper and Lower Egypt, the Chinese had developed the potter's wheel, begun cultivating cotton, and manufactured copper utensils and silk. This period was remembered as a time of sage-emperors. The earliest Chinese dynasty, the Xia of the Early Bronze Age, was the bridge between this neolithic culture and urban China as personfied by the Shang dynasty. The Xia dynasty began around 2205 BCE (during the Egyptian Sixth Dynasty) with the rule of Yu the Great. Accomplishments of the Xia included the development of the first cities in China, and bronze working. The reign of the Xia ended around 1766 BCE (towards the end of the Egyptian Twelfth Dynasty) when the rebel T'ang deposed the last of the Xia rulers and became the first Shang emperor. The Shang, also known as the Yin towards the end of their empire, ruled northern China until 1027 BCE (Egyptian Twenty-first Dynasty) when they in turn were replaced by the Zhou.

The most important achievement of the Shang dynasty was the development of writing beginning around 1600 BCE (Egyptian Second Intermediate Period), which survives in inscriptions on tortoise shells and cattle bones. Their culture was based on agriculture, including animal husbandry, as well as high skill in bronze work. The Shang kings fought frequently with their neighbors and with nomadic herdsmen from the Asian steppes. The war chariot first reached China during the Amarna period. Capitals such as Anyang housed brilliant courts, and a sophisticated religion honoring ancestors and spirits was led by the emperor. The royal tombs included valuable objects and sometimes slaves who may have been buried alive, indicating some belief in the afterlife as well.

The Celts

Little is known about the ancient Celts; they left no written records of their own, but their presence across Europe from Galatia to the British Isles is attested by archaelogical evidence and contacts with other cultures. The ancient Celts spoke an Indo-European language cousin to Italic, the ancestor Latin. The first Celts to reach the British Isles arrived between 2000 and 1200 BCE (sometime between the Old Kingdom and the Nineteenth Dynasty). These Celts spoke a Goidelic, a language that differed slightly from that of another group who arrived later. They are known to historians as the q-Celts to distinguish them from the p-Celt latecomers (the most important difference between their language being the presence of a q in Goidelic where there was a p in Brythonic). These earliest invaders became the Gaelic Celts of Ireland, Man, and, later, Scotland. The Brythonic-speaking p-Celts gave rise to the Welsh, Cornish, and Breton languages and cultures.

Aurelien Joly is a Tunahead.