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'First Civilizations' [2-DVD]
(DVD / PG / 2018 / PBS)

Overview: Having lived as mobile foragers for 99 percent of our time on Earth, how and why did humans set out on the road to civilization? How did they create villages, towns, cities and states, and establish the blueprint for the modern world?

DVD Verdict: This wondrous, eye-opening new PBS documentary, 'First Civilizations' identifies four cornerstones of civilization - war, religion, cities and trade - and explores each in the context of a different location, from Mexico, Guatemala, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, India, and Pakistan, to Oman, Morocco, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Along the way it unearths the latest archeological discoveries, tests new theories, and uncovers original information as dramatic reconstructions and computer graphics visualize the lost world of the first civilizations.

Watching along with this 2-DVD set, with a run time of 220 minutes, you learn facts that you never, ever have come close to knowing in every day life. Indeed, this new documentary takes it truly from the very beginning when explaining to is that homo sapiens, or human beings, have been around for nearly 300,000 years.

For most of that time, however, they had no written history. During this time of “prehistory,” humans spent most of their lives moving from place to place, hunting for food, building crude shelters, and protecting themselves from wild animals.

Around 5000 BCE, things slowly began to change. For the first time, humans started to settle down in one place. They began growing their own food and building permanent homes. The first cities were formed. People began using metals, such as copper and bronze, instead of stones to make tools. Then, around 3000 BCE, they created a system of letters and began to write. This new form of living was called civilization.

The people of early civilizations needed water for drinking and for their crops, so they settled near rivers. One civilization, called Mesopotamia, was established between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now the nation of Iraq.

The capital of this civilization was the city of Babylon. To keep peace among people living so closely together, they needed rules. King Hammurabi, who ruled around 2000 BCE, drew up the first recorded set of laws. The Code of Hammurabi, as these laws were called, set down harsh penalties for those who broke the laws—“an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

In other words the punishment fit the crime. These early laws provided everyone, regardless of their class or rank, at least some protection from their neighbors.

In each of the four episodes contained on this 2-DVD set, you will discover how our ancestors were motivated by the same impulses that persist today - the inevitability of war, a need for religion, the lure of the city, and a love of trade. Oh, and so, so much more it will have you thinking about where we come from for months; maybe even years! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.