World 1000 BCE

Game-changing innovations are appearing which will lead to massive population growth, greatly expanded trade, wider access to education, and other major advances.

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World history in 1000 BCE - ancient civilizations under attack

The Middle East and the Aegean

The past few centuries have seen the ancient civilizations of the Middle East and the Aegean experience steep decline – in some cases, such as the the Hittites, complete collapse, and others, such as Egypt, Assyria and Babylonia, significant weakening.

The eclipse of the leading Middle Eastern states has allowed new nations to come to the fore, notably the Phoenicians and the Israelites. In their brief flowering as leading powers they make a big mark, playing a central part in the development of the alphabet and the rise of the first great monotheistic religion of world history.

The camel is being domesticated about now, probably in Arabia. This will open up trans-desert trade routes, and will give rise to the nomadic Bedouin lifestyle.

At the same time, a civilization, made possible by irrigation, is emerging in the southern tip of Arabia.

This period also sees the spread of iron-using technology, which will have a decisive impact by allowing agricultural productivity to greatly increase. Originating in the Middle East, in the course of time all regions of the Eastern Hemisphere will be affected by this.


By this date, peoples right across the central Asian steppes have become fully nomadic in their lifestyle. This shift is linked to a change in their mode of warfare. Mounted archery has replaced fighting in chariots. The superior flexibility and mobility which horseback riding gives has ensured that the days of war chariots are numbered. Over the coming centuries mounted archers will displace chariots in the Middle East, and light mounted troops will become a feature of classical European and Chinese armies.

The Cimmerians dominate the region north of the Black Sea, and other Indo-European peoples inhabit eastwards into central Asia. Further east, however, the ancestors of the Huns, Mongols and Tartars have adopted the nomadic lifestyle of the steppe and begun their rise to prominence.

In the Middle East, Indo-European speakers move down into Iran, where they will become known to history as the Medes and Persians. In northern India they continue to expand, calling themselves the Aryans and establishing their proto-Hindu culture.

Indo-European peoples have continued to expand in Europe. The Italici give their name to the Italian peninsula; further north, in central Europe, Gauls, Teutons (Germans and Scandinavians) and Slavs are beginning to divide into separate peoples. The upheaval that this process involves may be linked to the invasions which so affected the old centers of civilization in western Asia and the Aegean.

South East Asia and Oceania

South East Asia continues to experience two waves of migration, both originating in southern China a millennia or more before. The people of the western migration are settling down in the mainland parts of the region as the Mon and Khmer peoples, while the eastern migration has continued to settle the coasts and islands, where they will be known as the Malay peoples.

The eastern branch of the latter migration has moved eastward into the Pacific. Here, crossing huge ocean distances in their small canoes, they have by now reached the islands of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. They are the ancestral Polynesians.


In Africa, cattle-herding and farming have probably reached as far south as the Great Lakes region by now.

The Americas

The Americas have seen a further expansion of farming. In Central America, the first civilization of the Western Hemisphere has arisen, that of the Olmecs. In South America, intensive trade links between the high Andes and the coastal plains of Peru are creating a single cultural area. In North America, irrigation farming is already becoming established in the dry south-west of the present-day United States. Further east the Adena culture is emerging in the Mississippi valley, starting a tradition of mound-building which will last for two and a half millennia.

Next map: the world in 500 BCE

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Early farmers

Early pastoralists

World history

The Steppe peoples of Central Asia

For details of the different civilizations, click on the relevant timeline above. 

More ‘Dig Deeper’ links may be found in the regional maps. To access, click on the markers in the world map.

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Early Civilizations

The Middle East: Age of Empire

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