Countless civilizations have risen and fallen over the millennia. But which one is the oldest on record?
About 30 years ago, this question seemed to have a straightforward answer. Around 4000 B.C., the earliest phase of the Sumerian culture arose as the oldest civilization in the Mesopotamia region, in what is now mostly Iraq. The Sumerians are named after the ancient city of Sumer, which was a few miles south of the modern city of Kut, in eastern Iraq. Archaeologists call the earliest Sumerian phase the Uruk period, after the equally ancient city of Uruk about 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the southwest, where many of the oldest Sumerian artifacts were found.
But evidence uncovered in the past few decades indicates that the Sumerians have a few contenders, including ancient Egypt, for the title of “oldest civilization.”
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