Chapter 1: Prehistoric Man

The first chapter overviews ancient humans until around two to three million years ago when the first stone tools were used and the Stone Age began. We know little of our earliest ancestors, other than from fossils. The original humans were small, hairy, wore no clothes, slept outdoors in hollow trees or between boulders, didn't write or speak using words, used no fire to cook meat, and were preyed upon by animals such as saber-toothed tigers.

Chapter 2: The World Grows Cold

The second chapter moves into the Stone Age, which the fossil record indicates began approximately 3.4 million years ago. During this time, humankind faced new perils, including ice ages, massive encroaching glaciers, far colder weather, plants dying, and animal migration to warmer locations. The ice ages led to suffering and death, but the cold spurred humans to invent the first clothing out of bear skins, seek shelter in caves, harness fire to keep warm and cook food, and to migrate to warmer locales.

Chapter 3: End of the Stone Age

The third chapter covers up until the end of the Stone Age, somewhere between 8700 BCE and 2000 BCE. During this time, new stone tools, such as polished flint axes, enabled humans to defend against the animals that once terrorized them. Ferocious animals of the time included the mammoth, the musk-ox, the saber-toothed tiger, and the cave bear. Humans moved away from caves and toward the rivers and lakes. Humans began cutting down trees with axes and building wooden homes over the water. Humans also began growing food and storing the food for winter. Pottery was invented to hold the stored food. The Stone Age continued until humans started using metal tools and weapons, when the Bronze Age began.

Chapter 4: The Earliest School of the Human Race

The fourth chapter reminds us that our current knowledge is based off millennia of advancements of ancient civilizations. Babylonians, Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Sumerians influenced many of our current verbal and written languages and our mathematics. The coming chapters cover groups of people living in three locations: 1) Egypt in the valley of the Nile River, 2) Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and 3) Suri on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Chapter 5: The Key of Stone

The fifth chapter explains why we know more about the ancient Egyptian civilization than other people who lived during the same time. The Egyptians were the first to invent a system of writing called 'hieroglyphics.' Hieroglyphics use figures of common items, including birds, people, tools, and pots. Egyptians wrote these figures on buildings, tombs, and their version of paper, the dried leaves of the papyrus plant. Egyptian writing was the basis for many other writing systems, including that of the Romans. In 50 BCE, the Romans conquered Egypt, and the Egyptian system of hieroglyphics was lost until the eighteenth century. A young French officer in Napoleon Bonaparte's army found the Rosetta Stone, a slab of black basalt which translated between Greek and two forms (popular and sacred) of Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Using the Rosetta Stone, it took Jean Francois Champollion twenty years to understand the meaning of fourteen hieroglyphics. Champollion ultimately gave his life to the cause, dying of overwork.

Chapter 6: The Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead

The sixth chapter overviews Egyptian beliefs regarding religion, life, and death. Early on, each village had its own god which resided in 'fetishes' such as unique stones or large tree branches. Egyptians thought these gods presided over rainfall, their harvests, and their battles. The Egyptian people brought the gods presents of food and flowers. As time passed, Egyptians replaced the fetish gods with nature gods that represented powerful forces such as the sun, the Nile River, the moon, thunder, and lightning. Eventually, the Egyptian people developed the belief in a supreme god called Osiris. Egyptian legend holds that Seth, the evil brother of Osiris, tricked Osiris and killed him. Osiris was brought back to life with the help of his faithful wife, Isis. Seth received his just desserts when he was killed by Horus, the dutiful son of Osiris and Isis. When it came to life and death, Egyptians believed life was only a brief interlude before an eternal death. Egyptians strove to preserve both the bodies and the souls of their deceased loved ones, turning the bodies into mummies by embalming them and wrapping them in linen. Egyptians dug graves to bury mummies, but often graves were raided by wildlife. Egyptians believed the souls of disturbed mummies were cursed to suffer and wander forever, so they began reinforcing graves with sand, gravel, bricks, and stone. Wealthy Egyptians tried to outdo each other by constructing increasingly elaborate graves. A Pharaoh, King of all Egypt, constructed himself an enormous stone grave to persist forever called a 'pyramid.' Other Egyptian Pharaohs constructed additional pyramids, some so well-constructed they still exist today.

Chapter 7: The Making of a State

The seventh chapter explores the cyclical nature of history when it comes to the continuous rise and fall of states and the distribution of wealth. In ancient times, Egypt became the first organized state. The people came together to construct dikes and river-dams to survive the annual flooding of the Nile River delta. As organized states form, they follow a pattern. At first, the majority of people are peasants, all equally poor and rich, and there is a ruler who taxes the people and uses the money for the common good. As time passes, a class of wealthy nobles emerges who are neither peasants nor kings. The nobles tend to get richer over time, often at the expense of the peasants. Sometimes corruption or poverty inspire the peasants to rise up, destroy the old order, and equally divide up the resources again. Eventually, a new leader and nobility rise, and the pattern repeats itself again and again. This pattern can still be seen today.

Chapter 8: The Rise and Fall of Egypt

The eighth chapter explores the movements of civilizations over time. Civilizations rise and fall and change locations over the centuries and millennia. As ancient Egypt grew in power, it expanded north and south along the Nile River. The Pharaoh ruled Egypt from the capital of Memphis. Eventually, the ruling class weakened, and a new power out of the city Thebes rose from the south and took over. Not content with just ruling Egypt, the ruling class from Thebes conquered the lands of Ethiopia and Syria. The new rulers built more dikes and dams to save water for times of drought and opened up trade with the Greeks of Crete and the Arabs of western Asia. They encouraged the study of mathematics and astronomy. Eventually, the new rulers fell to invading Arabs. The Arabs were cruel to the Egyptian people and ruled over them for five centuries. The Egyptian people rose up and expelled the foreign Arabs. A new military nation emerged. The people of the new Egypt conquered lands and built strong fortresses and roads. Unable to defend its expanded borders and running out of money and men, the militarized Egyptian civilization fell again to the Assyrians. At first, the people fought back against the Assyrians, the Greeks, and then the Romans, but eventually ancient Egypt fell for the last time to become a part of the Roman Empire.

Chapter 9: Mesopotamia - the Country Between the Rivers

The ninth chapter describes the melting pot of Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia was a fertile valley between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in present-day Syria and Iraq. The Greek terms 'meso' means 'middle' and 'Potamia' means 'river.' Mesopotamia was a green paradise between the harsh mountains of the north and the dry desert of the south. People struggled for control over Mesopotamia, invading from all directions and seeking to reap the bounty the fertile valley provided.

Chapter 10: The Sumerian Nail-writers

The tenth chapter describes the Sumerian form of writing, called cuneiform. Unlike the Egyptians, the Sumerians had no papyrus and had to carve their writings into rock or clay tablets. Due to the difficulty of carving into rock, the Sumerians inscribed simple wedge shapes. It took Europeans centuries before they deciphered cuneiform. Critical to deciphering cuneiform was the discovery of the Rock of Behistun, which inscribed a story in three different languages, including both cuneiform and the known Persian language. The Sumerians lived in the marshy parts of Mesopotamia. They built towers atop which they lit fires in honor of their deities. They had not invented steps, so they constructed ramps to climb to the top of their towers. The Sumerians also built the famous 'Tower of Babel.'

Chapter 11: Assyria and Babylonia—the Great Semitic Melting-pot

The eleventh chapter describes the convergence of people upon the fertile, green land of Mesopotamia. Remember that Mesopotamia, meaning 'middle river,' sat between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the land now known as Syria and Iraq. The first settlers of the land were the Sumerians. Four thousand years ago, a Semitic tribe called the Akkadians came and conquered the Sumerians. The Sumerians and Akkadians integrated and lived peacefully together. Next came a tribe of desert nomads, called the Amorites. The great Amorite leader, Hammurabi, established the Babylonian Empire. The Babylonians were defeated by a mountain tribe called the Hittites, who destroyed much and didn't rule long. Next, the cruel Assyrians came to rule. The Assyrians built up a large empire which included the city of Nineveh. After attacks from both the Cimmerians and Chaldeans, Nineveh fell, and the Assyrian rule ended. People rejoiced under Chaldean rule. The people were given a day of rest each week, and science and math flourished. Babylon rose again to become a wonder of the world with its famous hanging gardens that grew from the rooftops. Unfortunately, the happy times did not last for Babylon. After the Persians conquered the Chaldeans, Mesopotamia became a province of Persia and the great city of Babylon faded away.

Chapter 12: The Story of Moses

The twelfth chapter tells the ancient story of the Jewish people and their leader Moses. Plagued by drought and hunger, the Jewish people migrated to Egypt, where the Egyptians had great storehouses of food to survive droughts. The Hyksos Kings of Egypt fed the Jewish people and treated them well, but when the Hyksos Kings were overthrown, the Egyptians enslaved the Jewish people. Moses led the Jewish people out of slavery. Moses and the Jewish people began to worship Jehovah, the great God of the Storm and the Thunder. Moses took two stone tablets up Mount Sinai. When he returned, he told his people that the blinding flashes of Jehovah's lightning were engraved as words upon the tablets. Moses told his people that Jehovah commanded them to wander in the desert to find their Promised Land. After suffering many hardships, the Jews settled in the pastures which stretched from Dan to Beersheba. Moses had led his people out of slavery into freedom, to a new promised land.

Chapter 13: Jerusalem—the City of the Law

The thirteenth chapter details the cyclical rebuilding and destruction of the city of Jerusalem. The Jewish people settled in the valleys of eastern Palestine and built their capital, called Jerusalem, upon a hill. The Jewish people also built a temple in Jerusalem for their Ten Commandments. Over the centuries, the Jewish people fought the Philistines, the Babylonians, and the Romans for control of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, and the tablets of the commandments were lost. Finally, the Roman Emperor Titus, destroyed Jerusalem, expelled the Jewish people, and renamed the city Aelia Capitolina. Today, Jerusalem has regained its name, but it is still being fought over, as both the modern Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.

Chapter 14: Damascus—the City of Trade

The fourteenth chapter discusses the city of Damascus. Damascus was a city of trade that eluded the fighting that plagued Jerusalem. Damascus was the city of the Aramaic language, a simple, practical language used by traders. Aramaic was the English of the past, the language of the simple people of the old Mediterranean world.

Chapter 15: The Phoenicians Who Sailed Beyond the Horizon

The fifteenth chapter tells the story of the Phoenicians, pioneers who braved the seas. When the Phoenicians viewed the mysterious horizon, where land and water meet sky, they saw opportunities for commerce. The long-gone cities of Tyre and Sidon, once located in what is now known as Lebanon, were the centers of trade. The Phoenicians sailed the Mediterranean, traded with France and Spain, and built trading posts in Spain, Italy, Greece, and the far-off Scilly Islands in England. Old Phoenician trading posts, such as Marseilles, France and Cadiz, Spain, have survived and grown into cities. The Phoenicians were sailors and merchants, but cared little for learning, mathematics, and science. The Phoenicians also bought and sold slaves and cheated their neighbors. Other countries detested the Phoenicians, and as soon as the other countries mastered the art of sailing large ships, they abandoned the Phoenician merchants, who faded into the past.

Chapter 16: The Alphabet Follows the Trade

Although the Phoenicians did not value books and learning, they did make a major contribution by developing a practical and streamlined system of writing. The Phoenicians simplified Egyptian hieroglyphics and Babylonian wedge-shaped figures and developed an alphabet of only 22 letters. The Greeks adapted this system of writing, adding letters to capture vowels (a, e, i, o, and u) and additional sounds from their language. The Greek system of writing spread and is the basis of what we use today.

Chapter 17: The End of the Ancient World

Ancient man achieved much, building cities and states, developing written language, studying celestial objects in the sky, and constructing boats to sail the oceans. However, a new civilization of Indo-Europeans began to rise. The Indo-Europeans were uncivilized, but good fighters and unconstrained by tradition. The Indo-Europeans learned much from the people of the ancient world, and then turned that knowledge against their teachers. The tale of the Indo-Europeans will be studied next year, in grade 3 World History.