The history of civilizations is a long and, certainly, colorful one. There is plenty to learn and discover, not just about their culture, but also about ourselves at present. After all, many of what we know today have been gleaned from the ancients; whether that be engineering, preserving food, or even domesticating animals. These are things that the ancients had to discover for themselves for the first time, which makes them all the more impressive.

Around the world, there are many great cultures that have contributed a great degree to our current societies. On this list, we’ll take a look at some of the oldest and most powerful.


The Incan Civilization

Time Period: 1438 A.D. to 1532 A.D.

Location: Ancient Peru

Greatest Achievements: Advanced Engineering and Machu Picchu

Our first stop is Peru. This is where the ancient Inca people first began to thrive, starting as a small tribe before becoming one of South America’s largest ancient empires. At their peak, the empire’s borders had reached Chile and Ecuador. They were unstoppable when it came to conquering new territories, as well as when it came to developing their own society.

These are the people who deserve credit for building Machu Picchu from the ground up. They also had advanced knowledge when it came to even the most mundane of tasks, including freeze-drying food. They had an impressive network of roads, water and irrigation mechanisms, and even a functional mail-delivery system. For all their excellent achievements, however, it was disease that eventually ended the Inca dynasty.


The Australian Aboriginals

Time Period: 50,000 B.C. to Present Day

Location: Australia

Greatest Achievements: The First Known Human Civilization

Many of the world’s greatest and most powerful empires have come and gone, but the aborigines of Australia have managed to withstand the test of time. This is quite a feat if you consider the investments many ancient civilizations have put into surviving, only to later go extinct. There are many interesting aspects to the culture of the Australian aborigines, particularly when it comes to their concept of time.

Referred to as “The Dreaming”, this encompasses all of time; the future, the past, and the present. It also influences every aspect of our lives. It is their version of the creation story and is also where the soul goes to once it’s time on Earth has passed.


The Jiahu

Time Period: 7,000 B.C. to 5,700 B.C.

Location: Henan, China

Greatest Achievements: Earliest Form of Chinese Writing and Bone Flutes

Before China’s biggest empires were even built, and before there was such a thing as electricity, the oldest human civilization in the country was established close to the town of Jiahu in what is now known today as the Henan Province of Eastern China. At the time, there were nothing more than a few buildings and some forty homes that comprised the Jiahu. Despite their meager size, the village was culturally rich. In fact, archaeologists today have dug up the oldest known working musical instruments, the earliest form of wine, and the most ancient form of Chinese writing, all from the site of their stronghold.

The entire Jiahu populace had to eventually abandon their investments, from village to farms, and migrate somewhere else. This was triggered by the overflow of the rivers nearby, which drowned their settlement at around 5,700 B.C.


The Indus Valley Civilization

Time Period: 2,600 B.C. to 1,900 B.C.

Location: The Surrounding Basin of the Indus River

Present Day Location: Northeast of Afghanistan to Pakistan, and Northwest India

Greatest Achievements: One of the Most Expansive Civilizations in History

The Indus Valley territory is vast, covering 1.25 million square kilometers, with settlements scattered across Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. It might surprise you to know that archaeologists never found a single skeleton that bore damage from warfare and in-fighting. In fact, it is believed that despite the degree of land they encompassed, the Indus people did not raid villages close to them.

They prospered for 700 years and did so without the need for weapons or defensive fortresses. Their society thrived and had an abundance of food, a modern network of roads, proper sewage systems and drains, as well as other means of keeping their settlements clean. Despite this seemingly utopian culture, they met their eventual extinction in the form of invaders and climate change.


The Danubian Culture

Time Period: 5,500 B.C. to 3,500 B.C.

Location: Europe

Present Location: The Balkan Foothills and Lower Danube Valley

Greatest Achievements: Creation of Gold Artifacts and Goddess Figurines

Most people know the great empires of Greece and Rome, but there is one nameless civilization that made its home in the Balkan Foothills and Lower Danube Valley that is often overlooked even in online classes. The Danubian culture, as it’s been touted, thrived for 1,500 years and built towns and thousands of homes in the surrounding area. It is said that during this period, they might have been the most advanced society in the world.

They left behind many artifacts, including female figurines (called “goddess”), though archaeologists and scholars are unsure about what their intended purpose was. The Danubian culture also had a unique funerary practice, which included throwing gold into the graves of their deceased. So far, over 3,000 pieces have been recovered.


So there you have it, just five of the world’s oldest known cultures. Isn’t it amazing that before there was gas or machinery, they still managed to prosper? There is still much to discover and learn about them. In this way, they continue to live on.