"Ancient history" refers to the study of the written past from the beginning of recorded human history to the Early Middle Ages. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 years, with Cuneiform script, the oldest discovered form of coherent writing, from the protoliterate period around the 30th century BC. This is the beginning of history, as opposed to prehistory, according to the definition used by most historians.
Some important discoveries by archaeologists studying ancient history include:
- The Egyptian pyramids: giant tombs built by the ancient Egyptians beginning about 2600 BC as the final resting places of their royalty.
- The study of the ancient cities of Harappa (India, now Pakistan), Mohenjo-daro (Pakistan), and Lothal in India (South Asia).
- The city of Pompeii: an ancient Roman city preserved by the eruption of a volcano in AD 79. Its state of preservation is so great that it is a valuable window into Roman culture and provided insight into the cultures of the Etruscans and the Samnites.
- The Terracotta Army: the mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in ancient China.
- The discovery of Knossos by Minos Kalokairinos and Sir Arthur Evans.
- The discovery of Troy by Heinrich Schliemann.