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The First Cities and States (4000 - 2000 BC)

Five objects from the British Museum's collection tell the story of the emergence of the earliest cities in the river valleys of North Africa and Asia

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Early Writing Tablet

5/5 Neil MacGregor finds the earliest example of writing: a 5,000-year-old tablet about beer.

Sat 6 Feb 2010 00:30 BBC Radio 4

See all previous episodes from A History of the World in 100 Objects

  • Where these objects were found

    Where these objects were found

    11 King Den's sandal label
    12 Standard of Ur
    13 Indus seal
    14 Jade Axe
    15 Early writing tablet

    Browse all British Museum objects on the A History of the World site
  • The First Cities and States (4000 - 2000 BC)

    The world’s first cities and states emerged in the river valleys of North Africa and Asia about 6000 – 5000 years ago. For the first time people came together to live in settlements larger than villages. In these communities there is evidence of kings, rulers and great differences in power and wealth. These changes took place in what is today Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and India. But there are important differences between the early cities and states in these three regions. The world’s earliest writing also developed during this period. The surviving records of early writing are almost all administrative lists.

Shakespeare's Restless World

Image for Shakespeare's Restless World

Neil MacGregor uncovers Shakespeare's world through twenty objects.

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