Regardless of our interests, there’s something irresistible about peeling back the layers of history. Not only are there interesting factoids to uncover, but there’s plenty to learn in terms of what modern humans have carried on from ancient cultures of the past. As the renowned astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, said, “You have to know the past to understand the present.”
Academic scholars have leaned on two methodologies to study ancient cultures. The first is to study texts, while the second revolves around the assessment of source material. For example, texts that cover the Kesh Temple Hymn circa 2600 BC have been traced to as one of the oldest documented forms of human expression.
Still, no matter how fascinating, not everyone wants to study the past. Instead, we tend to prefer a more stylized peek into our ancient origins—whether in the form of an Indiana Jones film, a themed game, or even an exploration of culinary arts. In fact, many of us are at least mildly familiar with some of the world’s most ancient cultures based on how they’ve been portrayed in popular culture and media.
Think you can separate fact from fiction? Keep reading for a closer look at five of the most popular ancient civilizations.
Known today as Culhua-Mexica, the Aztecs date back to 1300. Prior to Spanish colonization, different ethnic groups formed communities all throughout central Mexico. Their culture is known for being rich in creativity and productivity; not only did they create stunning feats of architecture, but they also made great strides in agriculture that are still used.
Aside from the day-to-day markers of Aztec culture that surround us today, other aspects are covered in popular games. For example, online slots tend to cover ancient cultures that pique our interests—the Aztecs are no exception. One recent release, the Aztec Explorer slot, takes gamers on a journey through the historical period through the lens of civilian life and adventure, using design and audio to replicate the past.
Stories of Ancient Egypt maintain a stronghold on contemporary popular culture, with countless movies being dedicated to its mysterious aura. Think The Mummy franchise, Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra, and The Prince of Egypt.
So, what about Ancient Egypt fascinates us? Not only is the civilization considered one of the oldest in the world, but traditions related to mummification, cats, and an ancient script that took centuries to decode have fascinated scholars and regular Joes alike.
Home to one of the seven wonders of the world, ancient Babylonia was known for its lavish gardens and beautiful architecture. The hanging gardens of Nineveh are regarded as a feat of human imagination and design—even if we aren’t sure what, exactly, they looked like.
Babylonian civilization is remembered and celebrated for making significant contributions to the field of sciences, with particular emphasis on mathematics. In fact, it’s the birthplace of what we know today as trigonometry. Despite rudimentary technology, this ancient civilization developed the earliest fields of astronomy by studying the stars and rotation of the sun.
Located in present-day Peru and Ecuador, the Incan civilization was known as an expansive and far-reaching empire that spanned much of the Andes. Not only did they make significant contributions to agriculture, but the civilization’s high-altitude living continues to fascinate visitors from around the world.
Incan civilization was also known for its innovation in constructing roads and mechanisms of transportation that made traveling long distances much easier. Rather than rely on the wheel, ancient Incans traveled by foot and relied on llamas. In fact, their closeness to this strange and long-necked creature was one element that first sparked curiosity from outsiders.
The Nok is one of the lesser-known ancient civilizations due to a lack of archaeological study. However, historians are now developing an interest in studying Nok; so far, they’ve uncovered a strong association with ironworks and pottery. As scholars uncover more information about Nok Civilization, it could very well see further exploration in popular culture, whether through game themes or through a Hollywood retelling.