Most people don’t think much about the ancient civilizations that lived all over the world where current cities and towns have been established. Some day in the future, people in a history class might be studying about the past (like they are supposed to) and learn about this time period and how the people now contributed to their present day life. Without the ancient civilizations, we would not be anywhere near as advanced as we are now. The ancient cultures left behind architecture, religions, tools, and even writings and drawings. Their customs are remembered, discovered, and guessed at by archaeologists today.
Just as our cultures today have similarities and differences, the cultures of the past did too. The people of the Indus River Valley, the Minoans, and the Vikings all had some things similar between them, but more things that were different. Some of their differences and similarities include geography, lifestyle, government, religious views, trade and agriculture, and the end of their civilizations. They all also have some major influences on our civilization today. Geography was, and is, a very important part of civilization. Geography is important to our civilizations today for building, location, and transportation.
Back in 2500-1500 BCE, when the Indus River Valley tribe lived, they built all of their towns on the Indus River. Water was a source of life. A lake could be a place to do laundry, to take a bath, and to drink out of. It was also important because it meant that the ground around it was well watered and great for growing crops. The Indus people lived on what is called the Indian sub-continent since that stretch of land juts out from the country of India. They had natural boundaries such as mountains, rivers, and dry plains like deserts. The Minoans lived on the island of Crete, possibly one of the biggest islands in the Mediterranean Sea.
Crete has room for lots of cities and towns, most of them surrounded by harsh mountains, gently-sloping hills, or deserted plateaus. When the Minoans were on Crete, there was an abundance of trees as well that were traded to Egypt, Syria, Cyprus, and the Greek and Aegean Islands who were all close by. The Vikings also lived on islands such as Iceland and Greenland. When the Vikings got to Greenland, they were disappointed to find that it was just a big chunk of ice floating in the sea. Later, the Vikings discovered a new island, filled with green forests and animals.
They didn’t want anyone to come and take their beautiful land, so they named it Iceland. They were hoping to trick people with the name like Greenland had tricked them. The Vikings came from Scandinavia. Scandinavia currently contains the countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. Iceland is the only land mass completely surrounded by water, though Denmark does have some small islands around it. When the Vikings lived in Scandinavia, they also sailed around and raided villages and also inhabited new lands, such as Iceland and Greenland.
The geography of the Vikings could also include the rough and calm waters of the ocean since they spent so much time traveling and living on it. Believe it or not, the success of building and planning cities and houses impacts the success of a civilization. For the Indus people, their well-planned cities helped them to be an organized society. They didn’t have any large structures and every house had access to water. Houses were either one or two stories high, about the same size, and were usually made of dry bricks.
Their city streets were perpendicular to each other (at right angles) and they were wide for two-way travel. Their city drains were well-thought-out and well-placed as were their bath houses. Like the Indus tribes, the Minoans had well-planned cities. Around 2000 BCE, the Minoans started living under a king. Because of this change, their cities were also centered around the palace of the king. During this time the Minoans were also building roads to connect the main cities with the less populated cities as well as the smallest cities that were being built at the very edge of civilization.
A while later, the palaces were destroyed and even more elaborate and grand structures were built on top of their ruins. During this time, more and more small villages were being built in the more rural places on Crete. The houses of the Minoans were built with a post and lintel structure. Also, like the Indus, they had good plumbing systems and got their water from springs. There were many Viking cities, seeing as they traveled to different islands and continents and not one of them were the same. The Vikings also lived in clans, like the Scottish clans today, and no clan was the same.
One city established in York in 866 CE was named Jorvik. In Jorvik, the Vikings had well-planned out cities and houses. Their houses were made from post-and-wattle and they had space for a backyard behind every house. The Vikings even built a crossway over the River Ouse and had a main road leading to it. Other Viking settlements had houses shaped like boats, reflecting their culture and travel. They had wide oval walls and contained an entire family and their slaves, about thirty to fifty people, usually with a small stable on one end for their domestic animals.
There was generally a fireplace in the middle of one wall with a hole above it to let the smoke out. Often, the soldiers and raiders and occasionally their families were on the water for days at a time and essentially lived there as well. Government was a very important part of life when the Indus people lived, just like it is for most countries now. The government that the Indus people used was a hierarchy. A person was born into their social class and there was nothing that they could do to change what class they were in. The highest class was the Brahmins which contained only the king and the priests.
The Brahmins controlled the trade of the Indus people and every priest could read and write at least a little. The class below them consisted of warriors and aristocrats, who were primarily the rulers of the land, and were called the Kshatriyas. The next class contained the Vaishyas who were merchants, artisans, and cultivators. The lowest class of the Indus people was the serfs and peasants who were called Shudras. The government of the Minoans was different from the Indus people. The Minoans had a bureaucratic monarchy. The government of the Minoans was centered around the palace at Knossos, the biggest palace of the Minoans.
The Minoans also had a hierarchy in their government. At the top was the king, then the priests and priestesses, who were educated, and lastly the scribes, who could read and write. The Minoans developed a type of writing called Linear A. People today cannot read or translate it. This written language is the basis for other written languages in the future. The Vikings had a government system that was centered around the Althing. The Althing acted as a court for divorce, marriage, and disputes. Only men could participate in the Althing and it only happened once a year.
Women were only allowed if she wanted to divorce her husband. It met once a year. At the Althing, there was a guy called the Lovsigemann, directly translated to law reader man, and his job was to memorize all the laws of his clan. The Jarls were at the top and included the kings, religious leaders, military leaders, and feudal leaders. The Bondis was the next group and they basically were the merchants, commoners, and farmers. The lowest group was called the Thralls and contained only slaves. The slaves of the Vikings were people captured in raids.
At one point, the Pope passed a law that said one Christian could not own another Christian, so the people invented indentured servants. If the servant was freed or could buy their freedom, then they could become a citizen. Religion was as big of a deal when the Indus, Minoans, and Vikings lived as it is now, possibly even bigger. The Indus people were polytheistic and worshiped a mother goddess as well as some animals, especially cattle. It seems as though the Indus people took their gods with them when they ceased to exist because it is pretty impossible to find the name of any god or goddess of the Indus River Valley People.
Like the Indus, the Minoans were polytheistic, but they were matriarchal as well. They worshipped a mother goddess named Potnia and a goddess of snakes. They also worshiped the bull extensively. They worshiped a Mistress of Animals and a Mistress of Nature, and, to a lesser extent, a Master of Animals. They worshiped plants as well and thought that the colors of blue, for water, and gold, for saffron, had religious significance as well. At the beginning of the Viking Age, the Vikings were polytheistic. They believed that their guards lived in Asgard and would watch over them.
They also believed that if a Viking soldier died valiantly in battle, he would go to Valhalla, the Viking Heaven. All Vikings wanted to go to Valhalla, so the Viking warriors were fearless in battle. When the eleventh century came around, they converted to Christianity slowly. The Vikings saw it beneficial to them to convert so that they could hold more power over more people. Trade was the major business in the time of the Indus people. The Indus people grew wheat, barley, rye, peas, cotton, and rice for themselves as well as to trade.
They traded within the cities as well as with Central Asia, Mesopotamian cities, and the Arabian Gulf. The traded mostly cotton, lumber, grain, other food items, and livestock. They traded by sailing around to each country and delivering their goods as well as picking up other goods. The Minoans traded as well. They raised cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats. They grew wheat, barley, chickpeas, grapes, olives, and vetch. They were a major sea power with their extensive trade. They traded tin for making bronze and some of the crops and animals that they grew and raised.
In the beginning the Vikings were raiders, not traders; they took without giving back. Their first really good-for-them raid and bad-for-everyone-else was at Lindisfarne where they raided a monastery. They originally came in long but shallow ships in small groups. Eventually they brought more ships to each raid, which meant more Vikings. They attacked monasteries because they often had religious items of great value. Later, when the Vikings settled on Iceland, Greenland, and all of the other islands and villages that they had taken over, they did become traders.
They were some of the most influential traders, if they can be called that, in the Middle East and within all other trading economies. The end of the Indus is credited to many events. One such event is a flood. Actually there was more than one flood. These floods wiped out the irrigation system to give the crops water and the people lost their motivation to keep the city nice. The Aryans also invaded the river valley around the same time that the floods weakened the people that lived there. The Aryans had no trouble taking over the Indus people and absorbing them or killing them.
The end of the Minoans came almost like the end of the Indus, but more elaborate. There is actually a debate as to what caused the great fire and destruction of Minoan Crete, and the most popular candidate is a volcano, Thera specifically. Most scholars say that Thera erupted and killed some people with its gray ash before it actually exploded, more people when it actually exploded, and even more people with the aftershock of the tidal waves and the tsunamis. Another thing that brought about the Minoan demise was the shift from the Bronze Age into the Iron Age.
The Minoans traded with tin and bronze largely, so the shift to iron hit the Minoans hard. The last thing that is credited for the loss of the Minoans is the Mycenaeans. They invaded Crete after the volcano and took over the island as well as some customs and the dead bodies that were left behind. The Vikings were a group of people who didn’t like to stay in one place for too long; that and some got kicked out every place that the Vikings inhabited. Also, during the winter, the chunks of ice in the sea got larger and more deadly. Viking ships went down like the Titanic, well, if it had existed yet.
Some Vikings travelled to North America unknowingly and stumbled across some Native Americans. They fought with these natives before they lost the battle for the last time. The rest of the Vikings were still in Scandinavia, Greenland, or Iceland. Many past cultures have influenced the culture of today greatly, and the Indus is one of those cultures. They influenced the type of religion that some people follow now. They also ran their cities on a grid system, like Tulsa does. The Indus had roughly the same plumbing system that a city like Tulsa does now.
There were drains on the sides of the streets for the water to run off into. They also had houses build one and two stories high, just like most houses are built now. The Minoans left a legacy of games and leisure activities. When they lived, having extra time and leisure activities meant that you had plenty of free time which meant that you were wealthy. The Minoans also, in a way, invented the mall. Young ladies and men would walk through the castles and buy or barter for items that they needed. Generally each room would sell a different type of good, like animals or cloth for instance.
The Vikings may have gone away, but we still have two of their primary islands, Iceland and Greenland. The Vikings had traveled to the lump of ice that is Greenland because of the name. They believed it to have lush green lands and rich forests, but it was a huge chunk of ice. When the Vikings sailed to Iceland, it was what they had expected Greenland to look like. They didn’t want anyone to come and take away their island, so they named it Iceland, hoping that people would hear the name and never want to come. We also have the unification of Europe from the Vikings.
With all of the raids going on, the people of Europe had to join together just to stay alive, let alone keep the Vikings away. The English Parliament also comes from the form of government that the Vikings had that was called the Althing. The people of the Indus Valley, the Minoans, and the Vikings were three really amazing cultures. They each left behind some of their legacies, such as religion, city layouts, and leather-making. These three cultures influenced all of the cultures after them. The civilizations of today still use some of the techniques that these civilizations invented.
The Indus had very organized cities, the Minoans invented one of the first forms of written language, and the Vikings had excellent methods of transportation across oceans. Each of these civilizations had their own contributions, but they were all also really similar. The Indus and the Minoans had strong religious beliefs. The Minoans and the Vikings were major sea powers. The Indus and Vikings had unique architectural techniques. Every civilization greatly influenced the civilizations after them and they still influence us today.