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3.1: Regional Configurations of Historical Territories

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    This time frame was a significant change as cultures moved from hunter-gatherers and users of stone and bone implements to the time of settled civilizations and bronze technology. Other features of the period were findings of writing and traces of urbanization. Civilizations were included in the Bronze Age if they smelt copper and added other alloyed metals or if they traded for bronze implements. 

    In South Asia, continual drought in the Indus Valley caused cities to collapse and people to disperse into small communities. The Indo-Aryan people also began to migrate into the Indian subcontinent. The movement of people brought changes in languages, social values, and cultural adaptations as the people from the Indus Valley mixed with those from the Eurasian steppes. The migration also helped develop the Vedic Period.

    In China, the Xia dynasty was one of the first ancient civilizations to be described in historical records. Some archeological evidence shows the Xia dynasty existed from 2100 to 1600 BCE as they settled on the Yellow (Huang) River. The Xia Dynasty eventually evolved into the Shang Dynasty (1766-1046 BCE) and the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE), controlling a significant area and considering Chinese culture's birth.

    As with most other ancient civilizations, the Chinese dynasties located along significant rivers, including the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, natural water supplied in the valleys from the heavy snowpack in the Himalayan Mountains. The Yangtze and Yellow rivers flowed from the Tibetan Plateau to the China Sea across thousands of miles. The snow melts, and summer rains frequently flood the valleys, causing deadly deluges and depositing silt. One difference between China and Egypt was the typography; Egypt had a gentler slope for the river, and even though it would flood, the Egyptians could control the river with small levees and irrigation processes. However, in China, the amount of water flowing out of the Himalayas caused torrential flooding (3.1.1), which makes it challenging to control irrigation with ordinary methods. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Yellow River (CC BY-SA 3.0)

    The Yellow River is Asia’s second-longest river, and the Shang and Zhou dynasties took advantage of the flooding and developed a method to control the raging waters for irrigation, constructing the first 10-meter-high earthen dam in 591 BCE. The Shaopi Reservoir is still in use today, one of the longest-used dams in the world; the Zhou are credited as early hydraulic engineers. The dam allowed them to design a sizeable irrigation system to grow rice in paddies. The dam and irrigation system were so large it significantly diverted parts of the river for their agricultural needs to increase the crop yields.

    The Bronze Age followed the Stone Age (the period of non-metal tools constructed from stone or bones). The Bronze Age started around 3300 BCE and lasted until 1200 BCE when people made implements and tools from metal. Bronze was generally made from an alloy of copper and tin. Bronze became prominent in the construction of pottery and artifacts for burial ceremonies. Because bronze was a hard material, weapons, tools, and pottery were more substantial and lasted longer. Archaeologists can excavate surviving artifacts because of the durability of bronze. During the Bronze Age, large states and kingdoms emerged partially based on the strength of bronze weapons and their use in warfare. The establishment of larger entities also drove interactions of trade, movement of people, and dissemination of ideas. 

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Bronze gui pot from Shang era (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.  


    Early Religions (Est. dates - Vedic 1500-500 BCE, Hinduism 1500 BCE)


    During the Vedic Period, which spanned from 1700-600 BCE, several tribes (3.1.3) migrated across regions, leading to the emergence of larger political (x.x.) entities. This gave rise to the development of the Vedic religion. Among the most significant of these groups was the Kuru Kingdom, which was located in northern India and became the first major society to establish a state-level system. Historians believe that the Kingdom helped to expand and formalize the Early Vedic religion, incorporating the ritualistic hymns into the Vedas, which are sacred liturgical texts consisting of over 1000 hymns in the Rigveda. These hymns supported the pantheon of gods worshipped by the Kuru Kingdom. Veda, which is the Sanskrit term for 'to know' (vid or ved), was the name given to these texts. The hymns were originally passed down orally before they were eventually transcribed after 500 BCE.

    In the Early Vedic period, the northern region of India was home to settlers who established communities on the hills and plains near the Indus River. The area boasted rich soil and plentiful water, which provided the perfect conditions for raising cattle and cultivating grain crops. The Rigveda, the first of the four Vedas, featured hymns that centered on gods and demons who supported the universe, including the sky, earth, and netherworld. Nature's forces played a significant part in the daily lives of people, and the pantheon of gods was perceived as aiding natural phenomena. To receive blessings such as good weather or protection from death, people chanted hymns and made the appropriate sacrifices. Temples or special buildings for worship were not present. Instead, a clan leader or head of a household constructed special fires on sacrificial altars, and priests chanted hymns. Blessings of fruit or meat were added to the fire so that the gods could descend and consume the offerings. Agni, the god of fire, acted as a mediator to bring the gods for the sacrificial offerings.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Early Vedic Culture (1700-1000 BCE) (CC BY-SA 3.0)
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\): Late Vedic Culture (1100-500 BCE) (CC BY-SA 3.0) 

    Indra, a prominent Vedic deity, was revered as the god of war and storms. He embodied courage and bravery, serving as a role model for men. In the Rigveda, the earliest of the four Vedas, there were thirty-three gods and goddesses whom people worshipped. They believed that natural forces, such as monsoon rains, sandstorms, fires, floods, lightning, or cyclones, were uncontrollable and attributed gods and goddesses to them. The early hymns were directed towards these nature deities, seeking blessings from the sun, air, water, and others.

    “Through Vedic symbolism, we can understand the formation of Vedic deities.

        1.    They are helpful and essential in our life so they should be worshiped

       or respected.

                2.   Worshiping gives a sense of their importance in the environment and life.

                      This also develops the ecological consciousness of the worshiper.

               3.   The attributes assigned to deities are their characteristics in general and

                      according to that generally, prayers are performed, and objects are desired.

                      It means that to get that thing from a particular deity, in fact, we should

                      develop those divine qualities in ourselves.”[1]

    Vedic Religion

    Early and Later Vedic Religion


    During the later Vedic age, the social structure was classified by occupational categories forming a more rigid, hierarchical system. “These categories are known as varnas, and there were four of them: Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra. The Brahmins were the priests, whose duty was to memorize and orally transmit the Vedas and perform sacrifices to maintain good relations with the gods. The Kshatriya were the chiefs and warriors, whose duty was to govern well and fight. The Vaishya were commoners who traded and farmed. They were responsible for society’s material prosperity. The Shudras were servants who labored for others, usually as artisans or by performing menial tasks.”[2]

    Throughout the Vedic Age, society became increasingly structured and new texts were developed to guide people's actions. One of these texts, the Brahmanas, detailed the proper way to perform sacrifices, while the Upanishads explored the concept of karma and how individuals should live their lives. According to the Upanishads, good deeds could lead to a more favorable rebirth, while immoral actions could result in a worse one. The cycle of life and death ensured that virtue would be rewarded and evil would be punished. As the Vedic Age drew to a close, northern India underwent significant changes. The spread of people and the use of Sanskrit as a written language led to the establishment of a social hierarchy and the formation of new communities and states. These developments eventually gave rise to the foundation of Hinduism and its associated religious beliefs.


    Hinduism has its roots in the Vedic religion, with the earliest form being Brahmansim, which was based on the Vedic Rigveda. Brahmansim introduced numerous deities and explained the rituals of sacrifice. The priests who oversaw these practices were known as Brahmins, and they held the important role of maintaining the universe, appeasing the gods, and consecrating kings. As society grew more complex, so too did the religion, evolving to reflect the changing times. Hinduism is a comprehensive way of life, encompassing a wide range of ideals, beliefs, spiritual practices, and human experiences. Scholars consider it to be the oldest religion in the world, synthesizing multiple societies and customs. It is a highly diverse faith with no single founder or place of origin.

    Hinduism is a unique religion with henotheistic beliefs, in which a single deity is worshipped in various interpretations while recognizing the existence of other gods and goddesses. This is because there are diverse paths to reach a god. Agni, Indra, Shiva, Vishnu, and Ganesha are some of the significant gods followed by various sects. The Mahabharata and the Ramayana, two major poems, illustrate Hindu principles and gods by placing individual gods in dramatic stories of love and war. Vishnu is portrayed through these Sanskrit epics as the incarnated Krishna and Rama, who embody chivalry and virtue. The Bhagavad Gita, a set of poems, defines values and explains why one should follow them. The Puranas and Upanishads are two other vital scriptural texts. The Upanishads, comprising eleven major texts, form a fundamental structure of Hinduism and explain the concepts of reincarnation and karma.

    Hindu Gods Overview

    An overview of the Hindu pantheon including: Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Ganesh, Parvati, Durga, Lakshmi, Karthikeya, Rama and Krishna.Video text/introduction.


    The formal caste system in Hinduism arose from the practice of categorizing individuals based on their occupation and social status. This system featured four distinct categories: brahmins (priests), kshatriyas (warriors/aristocrats), vaishyas (peasants/merchants), and shudras (serfs). An individual's placement within a caste was determined by their past life and karma - good deeds in a previous life could lead to a higher placement. The concept of samsara, or the cycle of birth and rebirth, was also influenced by one's karma. Hinduism is a religion that allows individuals to choose their own path of worship, be it through a well-known deity like Vishnu or Shiva, or a lesser-known patron that aligns with their personal beliefs. Through a series of periods, Hinduism became more refined and accepted, with one of the major periods occurring between 800 BCE and 200 BCE. During this time, Buddhism and Jainism also began to emerge.

    Hinduism Introduction

    Hinduism is one of the oldest and largest religions in the world. It is also one of the most diverse in terms of practice. This video gives an overview of the central spiritual ideas of Brahman, Atman, Samsara and Moksha.




    [1] Tiwari, S. (N.D.). Vedic Religion. Retrieved from

    [2] Retrieved from