The Middle East was the
cradle of mankind's first advanced civilizations. In Egypt and the
Fertile Crescent, which extends in an arc from the north of the
Arabian Peninsula east through Palestine to Mesopotamia, the first
state structures emerged in parallel with the further development of
animal husbandry, agriculture, trade, and writing. The first great
empires, such as those of the Egyptian pharaohs, the Babylonians,
the Assyrians, and the Persians, evolved at the beginning of the
third millennium B.C., out of small communities usually clustered
around a city. Similar development also occurred on the Indian
subcontinent and in China, where quite distinct early advanced
civilizations took shape as well.
The golden mask of Tutankhamun, a jewel of ancient
showing the pharaoh in a ceremonial robe decorated with the heraldic
animals, the vulture and cobra, ca. 1340 B.C.