Can You Correctly Guess the Locations of These Ancient Civilizations?



By: Marie Hullett

7 Min Quiz

Image: Boy_Anupong/Moment/Getty Images

About This Quiz

While no one knows for sure what happened thousands of years ago, the architecture, artifacts and writings left behind tell a story that lead historians to a more thorough understanding. From the remarkable Egyptian pyramids to the Akkadians' impressive Sumerian script, we are able to piece together complex, though incomplete, pictures of ancient life. While these records reveal harrowing accounts of human sacrifice, war and bloodshed, they also provide evidence of complex understandings of astronomy and mathematics. They take us back in time and help us understand our place in it. 

Since many of these events occurred so long ago, though, it's easy to relegate them to the mythological. Sure, Homer's "Iliad" seems fantastical, and many historians understandably deem the Trojan War a non-historical event. However, there's plenty of concrete evidence of other ancient events and civilizations, and in many cases, historians know exactly where they took place. 

So, do you know where these ancient peoples once lived? It sounds simple enough—but picking them out on a map can actually be quite tough. For example, where was ancient Mesopotamia, exactly? What about Numidia or the Shang Dynasty? Was ancient Greece really confined to just Greece? There's only one way to find out: test your knowledge of times past with the following quiz! 

Where did the Visigothic Kingdom once lie?

The Visigothic Kingdom was established after the Romans lost control of the west half of their empire. Lasting from approximately the years 500 to 800 A.D., it was for a short while the most powerful kingdom of all of Western Europe.


The Aztecs were an extremely powerful people from 1345 to 1521 A.D. Can you name the modern-day location of this ancient civilization?

The powerful Aztec people emerged right around the time that the Incas did and congregated in three ancient cities: Texcoco, Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan. Experts think the civilization performed more human sacrifices than perhaps any other group in history. Such rituals were performed by Aztec priests at the Sun and Moon pyramids as an offering to the gods. The introduction of European diseases from the Spanish eventually led to the Aztecs' demise.


Where was the Shang dynasty located?

Though other Chinese dynasties existed prior to the Shang dynasty, it is nonetheless the earliest that historians possess records from. Ruling from 1700 to 1027 B.C., the people of the Shang dynasty were especially noted for their contributions to astronomy and math, as well as military technology.


The Kingdom of Armenia lasted from about 331 to 428 B.C. Do you know where it existed?

The Kingdom of Armenia consisted of three important royal dynasties: Orontid, Artaxiad and Arsacid. In 301 B.C., Tiridates III deemed Christianity Armenia's official state religion. Rome conquered the kingdom in 69 B.C.


Which of these nations was once home to the Minoan civilization?

Historians consider the Minoan civilization the first known, advanced civilization in Europe. The Minoan people lived primarily in the islands of Crete, which are now part of Greece. They were known for their complex advances in architecture, artwork and ship-building, among many others. These people were also prolific traders and helped spread Greek myths and legends to surrounding communities.


Do you know where the Xiongnu Empire once prospered?

The Xiongnu were nomadic peoples who lived in northern China from 300 to 100 B.C. Some historians think that the people were descendants from the Huns, but a lack of archived evidence makes it challenging to know for sure. However, historians do know that the Xiongnu people's fierce raids on China caused the Qin emperor to call for construction of the Great Wall.


The Yuezhi people are remembered for their prevalence in major battles. Do you know where they resided?

The Yuezhi began as a nomadic people in northern China that traded valuables like silk, jade and horses. When they encountered the powerful Xiongnu Empire, though, they were forced to abandon Chinese trade. Instead, they headed west, conquered the Greco-Bactrians and moved to India. They would eventually fight the Scythians and several wars in Han China and Pakistan.


Historians still aren't precisely sure about the location of the ancient Kingdom of Yam. Still, do you think you can guess the approximate region?

Funerary inscriptions reveal that Yam was a kingdom rich in ebony, ivory, boomerangs, leopard skins, incense and other commodities. Experts in ancient Egypt think that the land sat about a few hundred miles from the Nile or possibly in Northern Chad.


The Satavahana dynasty lasted from about 100 B.C. to the year 200. Can you name the nation where it existed?

The Satavahana dynasty, also called the Andhras, was an ancient Indian dynasty that practiced both Brahmanism and Buddhism. They created a large number of lead, silver and copper coins with the faces of their kings.


The Phoenicians prevailed from about 2500 to 539 B.C. Do you know where they were located?

Though the Phoenicians began in the Middle East, their colonies eventually spread across the Mediterranean, including Cádiz, Spain and Carthage in Northern Africa. The people notably exported Tyrian-dyed cloth and developed the Semitic language of Phoenician, which became one of the most commonly used writing systems in the Mediterranean world and influenced the Roman alphabet.


Can you correctly identify where the ancient Olmec civilization once lived?

The Olmec civilization prospered from about 1200 to 400 B.C., making it the earliest known civilization in Mesoamerica. They congregated mainly in south-central Mexico and were the forebears of civilizations that came after, such as the Mayans and Aztecs. Notably, they played a ritual ballgame, practiced ritual sacrifices and made stunning art that's considered some of the most impressive ancient work in the Americas.


Can you guess where the kingdom of Askum once resided?

Also called Axum, the kingdom of Aksum served as a world trading hub from about 100 A.D. to 940 A.D. Situated conveniently along the Red Sea and Nile trading routes, the civilization's commerce sector prospered, allowing it to expand into Arabia even further. The people adopted Christianity with the rise of the Roman Empire before Islam spread through the area later on.


The Incan civilization lasted from about 1438 to 1532 A.D. Do you know where the Incan people lived?

The Incan civilization was the largest pre-Columbian empire in South America. While its political and administrative hub lied in modern-day Cusco, Peru, it flourished across most of Ecuador, Peru and Chile. The highly established people created 18,000 miles of highways and roads across Peru.


Also called "Cloud People," the ancient Zapotecs lived from about 500 B.C. to 900 A.D. Do you know their whereabouts?

The Zapotecs colonized the Valley of Oaxaca and much of the southern highlands in Mexico. Originating from farming communities throughout the Mexican state of Oaxaca, the people traded with Mayan and Teotihuacan Olmec civilizations and flourished in part due to their smartly placed capital, which overlooked three vital valleys.


Can you guess the whereabouts of the ancient Etruscan civilization?

The ancient Etruscan civilization existed in modern-day Tuscany from about 900 to 100 B.C. The society possessed a robust military force and complex writing system; however, experts still cannot decode the language today, which makes deciphering their history more challenging. Historians do know that they made religious art from clay, metal and gold.


The land of Numidia lasted from 202 to 40 B.C. Do you know which nations it spanned?

In the Second Punic War, the king of Massylii defeated the ruler of the kingdom of Masaesyli to the west, fusing the two into the ancient Berber kingdom of Numidia. While originally a sovereign state, it later became a Roman province and client state.


Though important, the people of Tuwana are often forgotten. Can you guess where they hailed from?

After the fall of the Hittite Empire, the Tuwana people took over Turkey. Throughout 900 and 800 B.C., Tuwana facilitated trade, brought several influential kings to power and garnered sizable wealth. These people also appear to have offered rich cultural contributions; in fact, some historians think the Tuwana's hieroglyphic language, Luwian, laid the framework for the Greek alphabet.


The name might be a giveaway, but then again, it might not. Can you guess where the ancient Roman civilization existed?

Roman civilization began around 6th century B.C. and grew to cover a massive area. Though kings ruled the early civilization, within a couple decades, the people took over, establishing a Senate and the Roman Republic. Famous emperors like Julius Caesar, August and Trajan reigned over the land, but it quickly proved too expansive for singular rule.


Do you know where the Kerma people once lived?

The Kerma kingdom prevailed from about 2500 to 1500 B.C. According to historical documents, the people absorbed the kingdom of Sai and rivaled ancient Egypt in its power and size. By 1500, though, the New Kingdom of Egypt absorbed it—not without resistance, though. The Kerma people continued to rebel against the Egyptians for centuries.


Do you know the location of the Indus Valley Civilization, which existed from 3300 to 1900 B.C.?

Alongside Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley civilization is another one of the world's oldest. At its height, it stretched the remarkable distance of nearly 800,000 million miles. Also called the Mohenjo-Daro and Harappan civilization, historians describe it as an extremely sophisticated culture. These ancient people could measure length, mass and time and created a variety of arts and crafts.


The Gupta Empire prevailed from the years 320 to 550 A.D. Do you know where it could be found?

At its peak, the Gupta Empire covered the majority of the Indian continent—a period called the "Golden Age" by many historians. The empire was founded by King Sri Gupta, but other notable rulers include Chandragupta I, Chandragupta II and Samudragupta. The 5th-century poet Kalidasa wrote that Guptas conquered more than 20 kingdoms in and around India.


Historians think Mesopotamia is likely the world's oldest civilization. Where is it located in the present day?

So far, there's no evidence of a civilized society prior to ancient Mesopotamia, which existed from some time around 3300 to 750 B.C. During this time, people developed the concept of agriculture, started to domesticate animals and began to create more refined art than previously seen.


The Phrygia civilization lasted from about 1200 to 700 B.C. Could you pick out its location on a map?

Phrygia was a kingdom in central Anatolia, or modern-day Turkey. Legends from Greek mythology tell stories of many Phrygian kings, including Midas, who turned everything he touched into gold, and Mygdon, who bravely battled the Amazons. Homer's "Iliad" states that the people fought in the Trojan War as the Trojans' ally.


Can you guess the present-day location of the ancient Mayan civilization?

The ancient Mayans thrived across Central America from about 2600 B.C. to 900 A.D. Today, people particularly remember the Mayans for the solar calendar created by the civilization and their complex contributions to the understanding of astronomy. Historians still don't know why the highly advanced population quickly and inexplicably collapsed in the eighth or ninth century A.D.


Though once very powerful, the Kush people are rarely discussed today. Do you know where you could find them?

The Kushite people lived from about 785 B.C. to 350 A.D. and were known for their abundant valuable resources, including gold, ivory and iron. While the ancient Egyptians exploited the Kushite people for about a half millennia, the Kush managed to conquer them in 750 BC. Kushite pharaohs then ruled the ancient Egyptians for about another century, reviving pyramid construction and constructing buildings across Sudan.


Where could you find the ancient Indo-Greek Kingdom on a map today?

The Indo-Greek kingdom helped carry out Hellenistic traditions from 180 B.C. to 10 A.D. The kingdom was forced into existence after Demetrius, the Greco-Bactrian king, invaded the land in 200 B.C., dividing the people. Historians think the Indo-Greek king Menander may have been a Buddhist.


The Chola dynasty is considered one of the longest-ruling dynasties of all time. Do you know where it was located?

The Chola dynasty was a Tamil civilization that reigned mostly in southern India from about 300 B.C. to 1279 C.E. At its zenith, the dynasty was a major cultural, militant and economic power in Asia. The rise of the Pandyas and Hoysala eventually led to the decline and demise of the Chola people.


The ancient Greeks remain a very influential civilization to this day. Where did they live?

The ancient Greeks prospered from about 2700 B.C. to 479 B.C. Due to the civilization's long reign, many historians categorize the civilization into three periods: Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic. The Greeks can take credit for the ancient Olympics, the concept of democracy, the Senate, foundations for modern geometry and physics and a number of important literary and philosophical works.


Can you correctly identify the present-day location where the ancient Elamite civilization resided?

The Elamite people lived from about 2700 to 640 B.C. in modern-day southwest Iran. Historians possess a fractured understanding of the civilization due to limited, difficult-to-interpret records. They do know that the people utilized clay tablets to inscribe written language and constructed items from bronze.


Do you know where very influential ancient Chinese civilization the Han dynasty resided?

From 1600 B.C. to 1046 B.C., ancient China, also known as Han China, experienced a very multifaceted and prosperous existence. During this period, the ancient Chinese people introduced a number of invaluable inventions including paper, printing, alcohol, gunpowder, compasses, cannons and silk.


The ancient Egyptians, one of the world's oldest known civilizations, lived from about 3150 to 30 B.C. Where were they located?

You probably already know that the ancient Egyptian population is known for its long-lasting pyramids and mummies. It's also remembered for powerful pharaohs, hieroglyphics and important contributions to science and mathematics.


Do you know where Urartu, also sometimes called the Kingdom of Van, was located?

The Kingdom of Urartu lasted from about 860 to 590 B.C., when the Iranian Medes conquered it just as its supremacy began to falter. Today, the Urartu people are the earliest known ancestors of the Armenian people.


Do you think you can guess where the ancient Norte Chico civilization existed?

The Norte Chico civilization of northern coastal Peru thrived from 4000 to 2000 B.C. It is the oldest known civilization in the Americas, existing at about the same time as the Egyptian pyramids. The society is noted for its architecture, which frequently included expansive platforms and sunken plazas.


The ancient Hattians lived in the land of Hatti from the third to the second century B.C. Do you know what that area is called today?

Central Anatolia, or modern-day Turkey, was once called "Land of the Hatti." While little is known about the people, historians know that they spoke Hattic. Over time, Hittites joined with and replaced the Hattian people; historians also link them to Khaldi/Kardu people.


Where did the Persian civilization of 550 to 331 B.C. reside?

Though it reigned for just 200 years, the Persian Empire was briefly the world's most powerful. At its height, the empire ruled over 2 million square miles of land and was known for its immense military strength and intelligent leaders. In 330 B.C., though, Alexander the Great of Macedon brought the entire empire down.


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