3rd millennium BC


The 3rd millennium BC spanned the years 3000 to 2001 BC. This period of time corresponds to the Early to Middle Bronze Age, characterized by the early empires in the Ancient Near East. In Ancient Egypt, the Early Dynastic Period is followed by the Old Kingdom. In Mesopotamia, the Early Dynastic Period is followed by the Akkadian Empire. In what is now Northwest India and Pakistan, the Indus Valley civilization developed a state society.

World population growth relaxed after the burst due to the Neolithic Revolution. World population was largely stable, at roughly 60 million, with a slow overall growth rate at roughly 0.03% p.a.


The Bronze Age began in the Ancient Near East roughly between 3000 BC and 2500 BC. The previous millennium had seen the emergence of advanced, urbanized civilizations, new bronze metallurgy extending the productivity of agricultural work, and highly developed ways of communication in the form of writing. In the 3rd millennium BC, the growth of these riches, both intellectually and physically, became a source of contention on a political stage, and rulers sought the accumulation of more wealth and more power. Along with this came the first appearances of monumental architecture, imperialism, organized absolutism and internal revolution.

The civilizations of Sumer and Akkad in Mesopotamia became a collection of volatile city-states in which warfare was common. Uninterrupted conflicts drained all available resources, energies and populations. In this millennium, larger empires succeeded the last, and conquerors grew in stature until the great Sargon of Akkad pushed his empire to the whole of Mesopotamia and beyond. It would not be surpassed in size until Assyrian times 1,500 years later.

In the Old Kingdom of Egypt, the Egyptian pyramids were constructed and would remain the tallest and largest human constructions for thousands of years. Also in Egypt, pharaohs began to posture themselves as living gods made of an essence different from that of other human beings. In Europe, which was still largely neolithic during the same period, the builders of megaliths were constructing giant monuments of their own. In the Near East and the Occident during the 3rd millennium BC, limits were being pushed by architects and rulers.

Towards the close of the millennium, Egypt became the stage of the first popular revolution recorded in history. After lengthy wars, the Sumerians recognized the benefits of unification into a stable form of national government and became a relatively peaceful, well-organized, complex technocratic state called the 3rd dynasty of Ur. This dynasty was later to become involved with a wave of nomadic invaders known as the Amorites, who were to play a major role in the region during the following centuries.


Minoan Snake Goddess.
Near East
South Asia
East and Southeast Asia
Sub-Saharan Africa


A model of the prehistoric town of Los Millares, with its walls.

Certain 4th millennium BC events were precursors to the 3rd millennium BC:

  • c. 3700-1800 BC: Caral-Supe flourished between the fourth and second millennia BC, with the formation of the first city generally dated to around 3500 BC, at Huaricanga, in the Fortaleza area. It is from 3100 BC onward that large-scale human settlement and communal construction become clearly apparent, which lasted until a period of decline around 1800 BC.
  • c. 3500 BC-3000 BC Huaricanga is the earliest city of the Norte Chico civilization, called Caral or Caral-Supe in Peru and Spanish language sources. "It existed around 3500 BC and was the oldest city in the Americas and one of the earliest cities in the world." It is located in the arid Fortaleza Valley on Peru's north central coast and is 14 mi (23 km) inland from the Pacific Ocean. The site covers a total area of 100 hectares, and is the largest Late Archaic construction in the Norte Chico region. The three earthwork mounds on the large site are believed to be remains of pyramidal-shaped structures. Two standing stones, known as huancas, also survive. Excavation in 2007 revealed a structure believed to be a temple, of a design similar to, but predating, the Mito architectural tradition seen in the Peruvian highlands. In addition, later research in the Fortaleza and Pativilca valleys has found evidence of maize cultivation, as well as fourteen other domesticated species of fruits and vegetables. This suggests that agriculture may have been more important to the development of Caral-Supe civilization than previously thought, as it was for other independent civilizations of the world, such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and India.
  • c. 3700 BC: Lothal: Indus Valley trade-port city in India.
  • c. 3650 BC3000 BC: Minoan culture appeared on Crete.
  • c. 3200 BC/3100 BC: Helladic culture and Cycladic culture both emerge in Greece.
Detail of a victory stele of Akkadian king Rimush

The 3rd millennium BC included the following key events:

Harp Player from the island of Keros, made by the Cycladic culture sometime in the 28th century BC.

Inventions, discoveries, introductions

Great Pyramid of Giza, Kheops.
The Medicine Wheel in Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming, United States.

Cultural landmarks


Centuries and Decades

30th century BC
29th century BC
28th century BC
27th century BC
26th century BC
25th century BC
24th century BC
23rd century BC
22nd century BC
21st century BC

This page was last updated at 2024-01-27 13:12 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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