Texts in Context:
Timeline of the Bronze Age

By Gabriel Blanchard

A majority of the dates below are approximate and/or conjectural. Those that are especially uncertain are noted with a question mark.

The Old Stone Age

For a discussion of this heading and the next one, see our post “The Age of Saturn.”

  • ca. 3.0-2.6 million years ago?*—Emergence of humans (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis)**; beginning of Palæolithic (Old Stone Age).
  • ca. 300,000 years ago—Emergence of anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens).**
  • ca. 24,000 BC?—Beginning of Last Glacial Maximum. Sea level 400+ ft. lower than present day, linking many islands to each other and/or nearby mainlands; much of northern North America, Eurasia covered by glaciers/polar desert; most of world far cooler, drier than today.
  • ca. 18,000-17,000 BC?—End of Last Glacial Maximum. Glaciers melt, recede due to higher temperatures; rainfall increases in most places. Palæolithic transitions to Epipalæolithic: reliance primarily on hunting of megafauna, e.g. mammoths, gives way to mixed hunter-gatherer society; tools grow more refined; some permanent settlements near bodies of fresh water.
  • ca. 12,700-11,500 BC—Meltwater pulse 1A: rapid rise in sea level due to glacial melt, approx. 50-80 ft. in 400-500 years; much formerly open land submerged (e.g. Sunda Shelf), creating islands.
  • ca. 11,900-9700 BC—Younger Dryas: abrupt cold period, possibly caused by volcanic eruptions obstructing sun, or interruption in Gulf Stream due to glacial meltwater.
The New Stone Age
  • ca. 10,000-9000 BC—The Neolithic Revolution. Epipalæolithic transitions to Neolithic (New Stone Age): agriculture, textiles, pottery, large-scale settlements; early centers include Fertile Crescent (spreading to Nile, Indus Valleys) and Yellow, Yangtze Rivers in China.
  • ca. 9500-9200 BC—Meltwater pulse 1B: sea level rises about 90 ft. in approx. 500 years; possible basis of worldwide flood myths.
  • ca. 9000 BC?—Construction of Göbekli Tepe, oldest known megalithic structure, in southeastern Anatolia.
  • ca. 8000-6000 BC—”Green Sahara” period: due to climatic patterns and higher rainfall, Sahara mainly savannah rather than desert, houses several hunter-gatherer societies.
  • ca. 5000-4000 BC—Neolithic begins transition to Copper Age: first smelting of metals (starts with copper); Sahara desiccates: populations move to Mediterranean coast, Nile Valley, West Africa.
  • ca. 3500-3300 BC—Alloying of copper with arsenic/tin to create bronze; Sumerian cuneiform script, Egyptian hieroglyphic, hieratic scripts developed. Emergence of history proper.
Bronze-Age Antiquity
The Early Bronze Age

For a discussion of myth and proto-history, the dawn of the Bronze Age, and primitive writing, see our post “Now We’re Getting Somewhen.”

  • ca. 3150 BC?—Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by Pharaoh Narmer.
  • ca. 2900-2334 BC—Early Dynastic Period in Sumer.
  • 2686?-2181? BC—Old Kingdom in Egypt.
  • ca. 2600 BC?—Life of historical Gilgamesh?
  • 2334-2154 BC—Akkadian Empire dominant throughout Mesopotamia.
The Middle Bronze Age
  • ca. 2200-2000 BC—Possible smelting of iron by proto-Hittites.
  • ca. 2040?-1649 BC—Middle Kingdom in Egypt.
  • ca. 2025 BC—Rise of Asshur as center of Assyria.
  • ca. 2000-1800 BC—Evidence of early iron smelting in India, sub-Saharan Africa.
  • ca. 1875-1800 BC—Linear A script devised by Minoan civilization of Crete.
  • ca. 1800 BC—Earliest copy of “Old Babylonian” version of Gilgamesh (Shūtur eli Sharrī, “Surpassing All Other Kings”).
  • ca. 1750 BC—Composition of Code of Hammurabi in Babylon.
  • ca. 1650-1500 BC—Hittite Old Kingdom.
  • 1649-1551? BC—Hyksos (i.e., “foreigners”) rule Egypt as Fifteenth Dynasty.
The Late Bronze Age

For a discussion of Bronze Age society, see our post “The Age of the Bronze Men.”

  • 1551?-1077 BC—New Kingdom in Egypt.
  • ca. 1470 BC—Minoan civilization begins decline: destruction of Cretan palaces, towns; power of Mycenæan Greeks from mainland increases.
  • ca. 1450-1400 BC?—Conjectured date of historical matter behind Exodus.
  • ca. 1430-1180 BC—Hittite Empire (or New Kingdom).
  • ca. 1400 BC—Linear B, first script used to write Greek, adapted from Linear A; earliest record of Wilusa (Troy).
  • 1363-912 BC—Middle Assyrian Empire.
  • 1351-1334 BC—Reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who attempts to impose monotheist† solar cult.
  • ca. 1300-1000 BC—”Standard Babylonian” version of Gilgamesh compiled (Sha Naqba Īmurru, “He Who Saw the Deep”).
  • 1274 BC—Battle of Kadesh: Hittites defeat Egypt, gain dominance in Canaan.
  • ca. 1200-1190 BC—Trojan War (date of any historical matter behind The Iliad); Wilusa sacked, destroyed.
  • ca. 1200-1100 —Late Bronze Age collapse: most powers in eastern Mediterranean, Near East crumble due to drought, famine, plague epidemic, invasions by Sea Peoples; Linear B script lost in Ægean basin; Dorian invasion of Greece?
  • ca. 1180 BC—Hittite capital of Hattusa destroyed; permanent end of Hittite power.
  • 1077 BC—Death of Pharaoh Ramesses XI; end of New Kingdom.

For a discussion of the Late Bronze Age collapse, see our post of that name.

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.‡

*Here and throughout, the dating we offer represents the scholarly interpretation of the evidence, e.g. radiocarbon dating; we are not hereby attempting to enter the debate on “Young Earth” creationism, theistic evolution, etc. (Even on that view, it is tenable that God created an earth that was “already old,” and that the data gleaned by the sciences about geologic history reflect this.) However, to re-explain this every time it came up would make a tedious read, so we have simply set down the consensus of scholars in the field, as our readers are perfectly capable of determining how far they accept it.
**Neanderthals and modern humans were initially believed to be separate species, and are still often referred to thus, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens. However, studies in the early twenty-first century suggest interbreeding between them that produced fertile offspring did take place, suggesting they are variants of the same species. Research and debate are ongoing.
†Whether Akhenaten’s cult of the aten (the sun disc) was strictly monotheistic is disputed; some scholars believe it was henotheistic, i.e. acknowledging many gods as real but permitting the worship of only one.
‡The answer to the riddle (which Bilbo Baggins himself gets right by luck) is Time.

Gabriel Blanchard is CLT’s editor at large. He lives in Baltimore, MD.

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Published on 26th March, 2024. Page image of the Trundholm sun chariot, a bronze sculpture with partially preserved gilding on one side; it was discovered in 1902, sunk in a peat bog in Denmark, and dated to between 1500 and 1300 BC (used under a CC BY SA 3.0 license—source).

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