The 2nd millennium BC marks the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age.
Its first half is dominated by the Middle Kingdom of Egypt and Babylonia. The alphabet develops. Indo-Iranian migration onto the Iranian plateau and onto the Indian subcontinent propagates the use of the chariot. Chariot warfare and population movements lead to violent changes at the center of the millennium, and a new order emerges with Greek dominance of the Aegean and the rise of the Hittite Empire. The end of the millennium sees the transition to the Iron Age. World population begins to rise steadily, reaching some 50 million towards the 1000 BC.
Middle Bronze Age
Spending much of their energies in trying to recuperate from the anarchic situation that was at the turn of the millennium, the most powerful civilizations of the time, Egypt
, turned their attention to more modest goals. The Pharaohs
of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt
and their contemporary Kings of Babylon
, of Amorite
origin, brought good governance without much tyranny, and favoured elegant art and architecture. Farther east, the Indus Valley civilization
was in a period of decline, possibly as a result of intense, ruinous flooding.
Egypt and Babylonia's military tactics were still based on foot soldiers transporting their equipment on donkeys. Combined with a weak economy and difficulty in maintaining order, this was a fragile situation that crumbled under the pressure of external forces they could not oppose.
Unrest of the 16th century
About a century before the middle of the millennium, bands of Indo-European invaders came from the Central Asia plains and swept through the Near East. They were riding fast two-wheeled chariots powered by horses, a system of weaponry developed earlier within the context of plains warfare. This tool of war was unknown among the classical oriental civilizations. Egypt and Babylonia's foot soldiers were unable to defend against the invaders: In 1630 BC, the Hyksos swept into the Nile Delta, and in 1595 BC, the Hittites swept into Mesopotamia.
Late Bronze Age
The peoples in place were quick to adapt to the new tactics, and a new international situation resulted from the change. Though during most of the second half of the 2nd millennium BC several regional powers competed relentlessly for hegemony, many developments occurred: there was new emphasis on grandiose architecture, new clothing fashions, vivid diplomatic correspondence on clay tablets, renewed economic exchanges, and the New Kingdom
of Egypt played the role of the main superpower
. Among the great states of the time, only Babylon
refrained from taking part in battles, mainly due to its new position as the world's religious and intellectual capital.
The Bronze Age civilization at its final period of time, displayed all its characteristic social traits: low level of urbanization, small cities centered around temples or royal palaces, strict separation of classes between an illiterate mass of peasants and craftsmen, and a powerful military elite, knowledge of writing and education reserved to a tiny minority of scribes, and pronounced aristocratic life.
Near the end of the 2nd millennium BC, new waves of barbarians, this time riding on horseback, wholly destroyed the Bronze Age world, and were to be followed by waves of social changes that marked the beginning of different times. Also contributing to the changes were the Sea Peoples, ship-faring raiders of the Mediterranean Sea.
- Second dynasty of Babylon.
- First Bantu migrations from West Africa.
- The Cushites drive the original inhabitants from Ethiopia, and establish trade relations with Egypt.
- Middle Kingdom in Egypt (2052–1570 BC).
- c. 2000 BC — Menhir statue of a woman, from Montagnac, France, was made. It is now at Musee d'Histoire Naturelle et de Prehistoire, Nimes.
- c. 2000 BC–1900 BC — Kamares Ware jug, from Phaistos, Crete, is made. Old Palace period. It is now at Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Iraklion, Crete.
- Hittites Old Kingdom in Anatolia (1900 BC)
- Civilization in Canaan (1800 BC).
- c. 1800 BC–1600 BC — Horse and sun chariot, from Trundholm Sun Chariot, Zealand, Denmark, was made. It is now at National Museum, Copenhagen.
- c. 1700 BC — An earthquake damages palaces at Knossos and Phaistos.
- c. 1700 BC — 1550 BC — Woman or Goddess with snakes, from the palace complex, Second Palace period, Knossos, Crete, is made. It is now at Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Iraklion, Crete.
- c. 1700 BC–1550 BC — Pendant of gold bees or wasps, from Chryssolakkos near Mallia, Crete, is made. Old Palace period. It is now at Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Iraklion, Crete.
- c. 1700 BC–1550 BC — Bull Jumper (?), from the palace complex, Knossos, Crete, was made. It is now at Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Iraklion, Crete.
- c. 1700 BC–1300 BC — Palace complex in Knossos, Crete, was built.
- c. 1650 BC–1450 BC — Harvester Vase, from Hagia Triada, Crete, is made. Second Palace period. It is now at Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Iraklion, Crete.
- c. 1650 BC–1450 BC — Vapheio cup, found near Sparta, Greece, was made. It is now at Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Iraklion, Crete.
- Either in 1620s BC or 1520s BC the Minoan eruption of Thera (now known as Santorini), destroys Minoan Akrotiri.
- Shang Dynasty was founded in China in 1600 BC.
- Egyptian domination over Canaan and Syria (1600 BC–1360 BC).
- c. 1550 BC–1450 BC — Bull's-head rhyton, from the palace complex, Second Palace period, Knossos, Crete, is made. It is now at Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Iraklion, Crete.
- c. 1550 BC–1450 BC — Bull leaping, wall painting with areas of modern reconstruction, from the palace complex, Knossos, Crete, is made. Late Minoan period. It is now at Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Iraklion, Crete.
- c. 1500 BC–1450 BC — Octopus Flask, from Palaikastro, Crete, is made. Second Palace period. It is now at Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Iraklion, Crete.
- 1274 BC — The Battle of Kadesh in Syria between the Egyptians and Hittites.
- 1269 BC — Ramses II, pharaoh of ancient Egypt, and Hattusilis III, king of the Hittites, sign the earliest known peace treaty.
- Athens founded (1235 BC).
- Conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. The United Monarchy emerges in the last decades of the millennium.
- Beginnings of Judaism (1200 BC).
- Fall of Troy (traditional date 1184 BC. c.f. Troy VII).
- Austronesian peoples have migrated from Philippines to Celebes, the Moluccas, northern Borneo and eastern Java. From Moluccas a group heads west to Malagasy and another heads east into Oceania reaching Melanesia by 1,200 BC
Inventions, discoveries, introductions
Centuries and Decades