Which is the oldest civilization, the Jews or the Chinese?


The Jews have their archaeologically identifiable origins as a people group around 1100 BC. That is the time you begin to see a new people group producing distinguishable material culture and growing into the Israelite kingdoms which were established about 1000 BC. That said, their kingdom only lasted until 586 BC, with a short resurgence between the Greek and Roman empires from about 170-37 BCE. Further, they were destroyed and scattered in 140 AD after the end of the Bar Kokhba revolt, the last gasp of Jewish nationalist revolt in antiquity. After this, they were very much a people in diaspora, scattered across the world. It is up for debate whether this counts as a "civilization".

In contrast, however you define the Jews, as a civilization or as an ethnic or religious identity, the Chinese have them beat by centuries, with the oldest dynasty predating the Hebrews by a millennium, around 2100 BC. Further, ancient Chinese culture has more or less been continuously developed since its inception.

Additional ancient cultures which have modern remnants to consider include the Incas and Mayans, (admittedly not quite as old as the others) and ancient India, which boasts one of the earliest urban cultures in the Indus Valley civilization.

By: Benjamin Felker, PhD Student in Archaeology