2nd millennium BC


The 2nd millennium BC marks the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age.

Its first half is dominated by the Middle Kingdom of Egypt and Babylonia. The alphabet develops. Indo-Iranian migration onto the Iranian plateau and onto the Indian subcontinent propagates the use of the chariot. Chariot warfare and population movements lead to violent changes at the center of the millennium, a new order emerges with Greek dominance of the Aegean and the rise of the Hittite Empire. The end of the millennium sees the transition to the Iron Age. World population begins to rise steadily, reaching some 50 million towards 1000 BC.


Bronze Age

Near East (c. 3300–1200 BC)

Anatolia, Caucasus, Elam, Egypt, Levant, Mesopotamia, Sistan, Canaan
Bronze Age collapse

South Asia (c. 3000– 1200 BC)

Ochre Coloured Pottery
Cemetery H

Europe (c. 3200–600 BC)

Aegean, Caucasus, Catacomb culture, Srubna culture, Beaker culture, Unetice culture, Tumulus culture, Urnfield culture, Hallstatt culture, Apennine culture, Canegrate culture, Golasecca culture,
Atlantic Bronze Age, Bronze Age Britain, Nordic Bronze Age

China (c. 2000–700 BC)

Erlitou, Erligang

arsenical bronze
writing, literature
sword, chariot

Iron Age

Middle Bronze Age

Spending much of their energies in trying to recuperate from the chaotic situation that existed at the turn of the millennium, the most powerful civilizations of the time, Egypt and Mesopotamia, turned their attention to more modest goals. The Pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom of Egypt and their contemporary Kings of Babylon, of Amorite origin, brought good governance without much tyranny, and favoured elegant art and architecture. Farther east, the Indus Valley civilization was in a period of decline, possibly as a result of intense, ruinous flooding.

Egypt and Babylonia's military tactics were still based on foot soldiers transporting their equipment on donkeys. Combined with a weak economy and difficulty in maintaining order, this was a fragile situation that crumbled under the pressure of external forces they could not oppose.

Unrest of the 16th century

About a century before the middle of the millennium, bands of Indo-European invaders came from the Central Asian plains and swept through Western Asia and Northeast Africa. They were riding fast two-wheeled chariots powered by horses, a system of weaponry developed earlier in the context of plains warfare. This tool of war was unknown among the classical civilizations. Egypt and Babylonia's foot soldiers were unable to defend against the invaders: in 1630 BC, the Hyksos swept into the Nile Delta, and in 1595 BC, the Hittites swept into Mesopotamia.

Late Bronze Age

The peoples in place were quick to adapt to the new tactics, and a new international situation resulted from the change. Though during most of the second half of the 2nd millennium BC several regional powers competed relentlessly for hegemony, many developments occurred: there was new emphasis on grandiose architecture, new clothing fashions, vivid diplomatic correspondence on clay tablets, renewed economic exchanges, and the New Kingdom of Egypt played the role of the main superpower. Among the great states of the time, only Babylon refrained from taking part in battles, mainly due to its new position as the world's religious and intellectual capital.

The Bronze Age civilization at its final period of time, displayed all its characteristic social traits: low level of urbanization, small cities centered on temples or royal palaces, strict separation of classes between an illiterate mass of peasants and craftsmen, and a powerful military elite, knowledge of writing and education reserved to a tiny minority of scribes, and pronounced aristocratic life.

Near the end of the 2nd millennium BC, new waves of barbarians, this time riding on horseback, wholly destroyed the Bronze Age world, and were to be followed by waves of social changes that marked the beginning of different times. Also contributing to the changes were the Sea Peoples, ship-faring raiders of the Mediterranean.

Civilizations, kingdoms and dynasties

The civilizations, kingdoms and dynasties in this section are organized according to the United Nations geoscheme

Kingdoms and civilizations of the 2nd millennium BC
Africa America Asia Europe Oceania



The events in this section are organized according to the United Nations geoscheme.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact year or even the correct century for many events of the 2nd Millennium BC.

Events of the 2nd millennium BC
  Africa America Asia Europe Oceania
20th century BC          
19th century BC     c. 1877 BC Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed as per as Bible and Quran (legendary?)    
  Africa America Asia Europe Oceania
18th century BC       c. 1700 BC earthquake damages palaces at Knossos and Phaistos.  
17th century BC     c. 1686 BC Israelites descend into Egypt (legendary)
c. 1600 BC Shang Dynasty founded in China.
1627 BC Minoan eruption  
  Africa America Asia Europe Oceania
16th century BC c. 1575 BC Nubian Kerma sacks Egypt.
c. 1520 BC Egypt conquers Nubia.
c. 1500 BC First Bantu expansion out of West Africa
15th century BC     1478 BC Battle of Megiddo
c. 1476 BC Israelites leave Egypt (legendary)
  Africa America Asia Europe Oceania
14th century BC     Battle of Ten Kings    
13th century BC 1269 BC Ramses II and Hattusilis III sign peace treaty.   1274 BC Battle of Kadesh
Founding of Judaism
1235 BC Athens founded.  
  Africa America Asia Europe Oceania
12th century BC     1184 BC Fall of Troy    
11th century BC     1045 BC Zhou Dynasty founded in China.
1041 BC David reigns as king of Israel (traditional)
  Austronesian peoples discover Polynesia
Women figure in Menhir
The gilded side of the Trundholm sun chariot.
After eruption a volcano, today Thera
The Kadesh peace agreement—on display at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum—is believed to be the earliest international agreement

Inventions, discoveries, introductions

Inventions, discoveries and introductions
Communication Math and Science Agriculture Transportation Warfare
  • Nebra sky disk the world's oldest visual representation of the cosmos
  • Chinese record the earliest known sighting of a comet
  • discovery of iron smelting and smithing techniques
  • Introduction of the Peach from China to Persia and Europe


In the history of the Egyptian language, the early 2nd millennium saw a transition from Old Egyptian to Middle Egyptian. As the most used written form of the Ancient Egyptian language, it is frequently (incorrectly) referred to simply as "Hieroglyphics".

The earliest attested Indo-European language, the Hittite language, first appears in cuneiform in the 16th century BC (Anitta text), before disappearing from records in the 13th century BC. Hittite is the best known and the most studied language of the extinct Anatolian branch of Indo-European languages.

The first Northwest Semitic language, Ugaritic, is attested in the 14th century BC. The first fully phonemic script Proto-Canaanite developed from Egyptian hieroglyphs, becoming the Phoenician alphabet by 1200 BC. The Phoenician alphabet was spread throughout the mediterranean by Phoenician maritime traders and become one of the most widely used writing systems in the world, and the parent of virtually all alphabetic writing systems. The Phoenician language is also the first Canaanite language, the Northwest Semitic languages spoken by the ancient peoples of the Canaan region: the Israelites, Phoenicians, Amorites, Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites.

Mycenaean Greek, the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, was used on the Greek mainland, Crete and Cyprus in the Mycenaean period.

Significant people

The people in this section are organized according to the United Nations geoscheme

Significant people of the 2nd millennium BC
  Africa America Asia Europe Oceania
20th century BC          
19th century BC     Abraham    
  Africa America Asia Europe Oceania
18th century BC          
17th century BC     Hammurabi

Tang of Shang

  Africa America Asia Europe Oceania
16th century BC Kamose
Ahmose I
Amenhotep I
Thutmose I
15th century BC Thutmose II
Thutmose III
Amenhotep II
Thutmose IV
  Africa America Asia Europe Oceania
14th century BC Amenhotep III
13th century BC Ramesses I
Seti I
Ramesses II
  Shalmaneser I
Theseus (legendary)  
  Africa America Asia Europe Oceania
12th century BC     King Wen of Zhou
 Achilles (legendary)  
11th century BC       King Wu of Zhou
Duke of Zhou


Accuracy of dates

Please see the article on Chronology of the ancient Near East for more discussion regarding the accuracy and resolution of dates for events of the 2nd millennium BC in the Near East (Babylon, etc.).

Centuries and Decades

20th century BC 1990s BC 1980s BC 1970s BC 1960s BC 1950s BC 1940s BC 1930s BC 1920s BC 1910s BC 1900s BC
19th century BC 1890s BC 1880s BC 1870s BC 1860s BC 1850s BC 1840s BC 1830s BC 1820s BC 1810s BC 1800s BC
18th century BC 1790s BC 1780s BC 1770s BC 1760s BC 1750s BC 1740s BC 1730s BC 1720s BC 1710s BC 1700s BC
17th century BC 1690s BC 1680s BC 1670s BC 1660s BC 1650s BC 1640s BC 1630s BC 1620s BC 1610s BC 1600s BC
16th century BC 1590s BC 1580s BC 1570s BC 1560s BC 1550s BC 1540s BC 1530s BC 1520s BC 1510s BC 1500s BC
15th century BC 1490s BC 1480s BC 1470s BC 1460s BC 1450s BC 1440s BC 1430s BC 1420s BC 1410s BC 1400s BC
14th century BC 1390s BC 1380s BC 1370s BC 1360s BC 1350s BC 1340s BC 1330s BC 1320s BC 1310s BC 1300s BC
13th century BC 1290s BC 1280s BC 1270s BC 1260s BC 1250s BC 1240s BC 1230s BC 1220s BC 1210s BC 1200s BC
12th century BC 1190s BC 1180s BC 1170s BC 1160s BC 1150s BC 1140s BC 1130s BC 1120s BC 1110s BC 1100s BC
11th century BC 1090s BC 1080s BC 1070s BC 1060s BC 1050s BC 1040s BC 1030s BC 1020s BC 1010s BC 1000s BC


  1. Keys, David (January 2009), "Scholars crack the code of an ancient enigma", BBC History Magazine, 10 (1): 9

See also

Holocene Epoch
Preboreal (10.3–9 ka)
Boreal (9–7.5 ka)
Atlantic (7.55 ka)
Subboreal (52.5 ka)
Subatlantic (2.5 ka–present)
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