The Bronze Age
After the discovery of writing at the end of the 4th millennium BCE, city life developed and technical knowledge increased, but there were also intervals of depopulation and decline. The pattern recurs with considerable consistency throughout the ancient Near East, in Persia, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, the Levant, and Egypt. It is therefore possible to speak in general terms of a ‘Bronze Age’ which lasted from c.3300 to c.1200 BCE, applying roughly to all those regions. It was broken, by two periods of recession, into three phases, known as Early Bronze Age (EBA, c.3300–2000), Middle Bronze Age (MBA, c.2000–1550), and Late Bronze Age (LBA, c.1550–1200). The Early Bronze Age was the time of the building of the great pyramids in Egypt, and of the flourishing of the Sumerian civilization in southern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) whose high level of craftsmanship is known from, among other discoveries, objects found in the royal tombs at Ur. The Middle Bronze Age was the time of the lawgiver, Hammurabi the Great of Babylon, of the early Hittite rulers (probably of Indo‐European origin) in Anatolia, and the flowering of the Minoan culture in Crete. The Late Bronze Age was, in Egypt, the time of the great warrior pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty and also of the religious reformer Akhenaten. In Anatolia, a great Hittite empire rose and declined, and in Upper Mesopotamia the kingdom of Mitaanni was established by another group of Indo‐European origins, the Hurrians. On the Mediterranean coast, the kingdom of Ugarit reached its zenith, able to exploit its potential as a port and commercial centre. Seafaring peoples occupied and travelled among the coastlands and islands of the Aegean and east Mediterranean, including the earliest known Greek‐speaking colonists, the Achaeans. And in general this was a time when commerce, literacy, and craftsmanship flourished.