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3.1: Regional Configurations of Historical Territories

  • Page ID
    219963
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    Introduction

    Throughout the Bronze Age, a notable transformation in human culture occurred as individuals transitioned from hunting and gathering to establishing civilizations. This period was marked by the utilization of bronze technology, the appearance of writing, and signs of urban development. Civilizations were deemed a part of the Bronze Age if they could smelt copper and other blended metals or if they engaged in trade to obtain bronze implements.

    The Indus Valley civilization was severely affected by persistent drought conditions, which ultimately led to the collapse of its cities and the dispersion of its inhabitants into smaller groups across South Asia. During this time, the Indo-Aryan people started to migrate into the Indian subcontinent from the Eurasian steppes. This influx of migrants resulted in significant changes to the language, social norms, and cultural practices of the region as they intermingled with the local population. This movement also played a crucial role in shaping the Vedic Period, a significant historical period known for its cultural and religious developments in South Asia.

    The Xia dynasty stands as one of China's earliest and most significant ancient civilizations, chronicled in historical records and supported by archeological findings. The Xia Dynasty thrived on the banks of the Huang River between the years of 2100 to 1600 BCE. Over time, the Xia Dynasty transformed into the Shang Dynasty (1766-1046 BCE) and ultimately the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE), which governed a vast territory and served as the genesis of Chinese culture.

    As with most other ancient civilizations, Chinese dynasties emerged along significant rivers, including the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, which received natural water supply from the valleys due to the heavy snowpack in the Himalayan Mountains. These rivers flowed for thousands of miles from the Tibetan Plateau to the China Sea. Due to the melting of snow and frequent summer rains, the valleys were prone to deadly floods, which would deposit silt. One notable difference between China and Egypt was the typography of the rivers; the river in Egypt had a gentler slope, and though it would flood, the Egyptians could control it with small levees and irrigation methods. However, in China, the water flowing out of the Himalayas was so enormous that it caused torrential flooding (3.1.1), making it challenging to control irrigation using conventional methods.

    A man standing in front of a raging yellow river
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Yellow RiverBrent HoCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    The Yellow River, stretching over a great distance, is the second-longest river in Asia. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties, they ingeniously developed a method to control flooding and built the first 10-meter-high earthen dam in 591 BCE for irrigation purposes. The Zhou dynasty is credited as early hydraulic engineers for their remarkable achievements. Even today, the Shaopi Reservoir, created by this dam, is still in use and is one of the longest-used dams in the world. The dam allowed them to design a significant irrigation system to cultivate rice in paddies, which was so large that it diverted a significant portion of the river to increase crop yields for their agricultural needs.

    The Bronze Age, which succeeded the Stone Age, was an era marked by the use of metal tools instead of non-metal tools made from stone or bones. This period began around 3300 BCE and continued until 1200 BCE, when metal tools and implements became more prevalent. Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, was a popular material for making pottery and artifacts used in burial ceremonies. Its durability made it an ideal material for creating long-lasting tools, weapons, and pottery. Even today, archaeologists can uncover artifacts from the Bronze Age due to the strength of bronze. The use of bronze weapons was a significant factor in the rise of large states and kingdoms during this time. These entities were established based on the power of bronze weapons and their effectiveness in warfare. As larger entities emerged, they facilitated trade, the movement of people, and the exchange of new ideas.

    A bronze pot with decorative handles
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Bronze gui pot from Shang era (Mountain, CC BY-SA 3.0)

    Historians believe the Bronze Age in Asia began in China and led to the development of the Shang and Zhou Dynasties. Bronze artifacts like the gui pot (3.1.2) were found in multiple places and for different uses. The Chinese developed the piece-mold method instead of the lost-wax method used by other cultures. Artists made a clay model of the anticipated object and hardened the model by firing the clay. Soft clay was pressed on the model to create a negative impression. The clay pieces were removed in sections to produce the piece molds. The model was shaved, and the parts reassembled to hold the molten bronze. When the bronze cooled, the mold was removed. In Korea, bronze was adopted from 1000 BCE to 800 BCE and was used mainly for ceremonial or burial items. The use of bronze spread to Japan much later as it migrated from other places. Bronze technology was developed early in the Indus Valley as they also made items from copper, lead, and tin. During the late Harappan period, bronze overlapped the Iron Age. Bronze was used in Thailand, and one site had over 600 graves elaborately decorated with multiple bronze elements, indicating the social importance of bronze items. Vietnam first developed its Dong Don drums during the Bronze Age. Some historians believe they used on-site casting, indicating that bronze was imported from other countries, while others think on-site casting was the preferred methodology.