Episode 1 – “Climb the Stone Staircase”

“Climb the stone staircase, more ancient than the mind can imagine” – The Epic of Gilgamesh

The Sumerians of Mesopotamia, the Elamites of the Persian plateau, and the Egyptians of the Nile River valley were among the first civilizations to emerge in the ancient world.

Episode Images:


Series References and Further Reading:


62 thoughts on “Episode 1 – “Climb the Stone Staircase”

  1. Nice introducrion, though I had hoped for some kind of reflection over the finds at Göbekli Tepe, which goes against the conventional idea that civilization starts with agriculture…

  2. I appreciate the feedback. Some also argue that the Norte Chico (Episode 2) provide evidence for the maritime origins of human civilization. Unfortunately, in trying to keep the length of each episode reasonably short, I'm sometimes unable to give sufficient weight to competing theories. Thanks for listening!

  3. Scott, you are mistaken. Farming is NOT boringl It is only the foolish cultural bias of city dwellers that sees working the land as absent of intellectual or spiritual satisfaction.

  4. Good episode. Was expecting to hear a little more about pre-history though (like Gobekli Tepe and other super old structures), before diving right in to Sumer and Egypt.

  5. Very nice episode indeed. I've always been interested in ancient history but have never had the time to dig into it. You might just make a history junkie out of me. I appreciate the length of your podcast and think it's great that you are forced to condense things down. It encourages people like me to dig deeper and research on my own and in doing so I will come across the competing theories mentioned by the Reluctant Blogger. Hope you keep up the fine PCast!

    PS. Are you going to reveal whether or not aliens build the pyramids? j/k. Well sort of kidding, the best part of history is often the unexplained mysteries.

  6. Thanks, glad you liked it! Hope you enjoy the rest of the series. At this point, it looks like the series will run around 20 episodes, as opposed to the originally-projected dozen.

    As far as the pyramids, I read an interesting book years ago about how the Giza necropolis is aligned with the stars in Orion's belt, and various shafts are oriented toward astronomical objects. The Egyptiains certainly knew their stars!

  7. Hi! Thanks for coming over via the History of Rome – that's really an excellent podcast, and I hope you eventually get to check it out. To be honest, I typically only discuss the agricultural origins of civilizations, as well as dislocations due to draught & famine, etc. But I don't delve much into farming per se. My main focus is historical "firsts", and I'm also something of an ancient political junkie. Hope you enjoy the series!

  8. Really enjoyed this! Came here via the History of Rome page which, although I haven't listened to or followed, I came across via another page which I had found via a simple Google search. Do the other episodes also reference farming? I'm fascinated by the impact of farming on the dispersal of peoples and languages! Thanks for your work. Looking forward to listening!

  9. Thank you. My son sent me the link to your podcast because he knows I love Ancient History. My native language is not English and I can not express myself very well in that language but I understand it and listening to your podcast has been a great pleasure. Thank you very much.
    cheers from Brasil

  10. Fantastic, glad you're enjoying it! And thanks for giving me the link, I wasn't aware of the interview. I just listened to it tonight – Mike related our conversation exactly how I remembered it. The History of Rome tour was a lot of fun, and Mike's a great guy. Hope you enjoy the rest of the series!

    1. Just started listening to your podcast. What an amazing job done! Besides the fact I’m learning interesting ancient history facts, I also passively practice my English. Thanks a lot!

      1. Hi Oleksandra! Thanks, and welcome to the podcast. I’m glad you’re enjoying it! Have a great day. – Scott C.

  11. Ancient Mesopotamia (especially the Sumerians) is something I have been very interested in, and your podcast was a great help in learning about it. Thank you!

    Do you have any suggestions for further learning?, especially in regards for Sumer, Akkad, and Sealand?

  12. Hi! Welcome to the podcast, I'm glad you enjoyed the first episode. I had two main references for that part of the series: "Ancient Iraq" by Georges Roux & "A History of the Ancient Near East" by Van De Mieroop. Of the two, I'd recommend the first one, since the second is more "textbook-like." Enjoy! – Scott C.

  13. Scott, I know it's been years since this episode was published but I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your awesome podcast. You've given this history lover something to enjoy while commuting and during what little leisure time I have. I work full time but have been attending college part time for a few years as a history major and I love to find others who share the love of history. I had been searching for an ancient history vlog or podcast and thankfully stumbled across yours after listening to a few episodes of Mike Duncan's History of Rome a couple months ago. I have been binge listening ever since. I think you've done a great job with your research and I love the supplementary material you include here and on the facebook page which I just discovered yesterday.
    Take Care!

  14. Hi Nicole! Thanks for stopping by to give the nice feedback, I appreciate it. I'm very glad you're enjoying the podcast. New Episodes won't be starting up again until April, so you have plenty of time to catch up 😉 In the meantime I'll be posting occasionally on the Facebook page, but I'm probably most frequently on the Twitter page (@TheAncientWorld). Take care! – Scott

  15. This podcast is fantastic. Love finding out about history but I feel forced to go further and further back. This is exactly what I was looking for. Just started listening a few days ago and am just starting to visit your blog/site. Hoping to find some type of bibliography. The description of agriculture and its importance in civilization grabbed me right from the get go- the essay by John Zerzan "Agriculture: Demon Engine of Civilization" has always fascinated me regarding the birth of civilization (for good or bad).

  16. Hi Ken! Thanks for stopping by, and glad you're enjoying the podcast. If you're looking for a bibliography of the first series, you need to pull up the blog site on a laptop (as opposed to a phone or tablet), then scroll all the way down the right-hand-side – you can find the links there. I also stay pretty active on the Facebook & Twitter pages. Take care, and enjoy! – Scott

  17. Scott, I'm a new listener. In your first episode, you mention that major resources will be listed on the website. I'm not seeing it. Can you point me to it? If resources aren't listed, I'd love to see that posted someday. Thanks!

    1. PS If you’d like to pass me an e-mail address, I’d be happy to e-mail you a bunch of supplementary materials. Please let me know.

      1. Scott,

        You mentioned supplementary materials such as maps and etc. Could you email me or direct me to the information

        1. Hi! Yeah, unfortunately the links to those are long gone – but they’re still on my laptop! 😉 Will e-mail some files to the e-mail address above. Enjoy!

  18. Hi Matthew, and welcome to the podcast! Hope you enjoy it. Now the bad news: My old blogger/blogspot site DID have all the detailed information in question. Unfortunately blogger's new "streamlined" design doesn't have that capability. Sometime in the future I'm considering moving to a different platform with better functionality, but unfortunately that won't be an immediate help for you. Take care – Scott C.

    1. Huge fan of the podcast, have gleaned a large amount of information and entertainment from repeated listening, and was sad to see the older sections of the show have been removed from the Google podcast app. I was curious if this was intentional and if there was a place to listen to the older series? Also, I’m very interested in the larger source materials list the above commenter mentioned, I’m hoping you are able to migrate platforms soon to be able to provide that. Thanks again for all of your hard work!!!

      1. First off, thanks!! Second, YES, there is an (entirely unintentional) reason for why my old eps have disappeared from Google Podcasts: I just migrated my blog from Blogger to WordPress. I will do my best to fix the Google Podcast (and other media) issues this weekend. Thanks for letting me know, and if Google Podcasts starts showing the old episodes again, please let me know!

      2. Hi again, If you’d be OK with my using your e-mail address given in your post, I’d be happy to e-mail you a bunch of supplementary materials for Bloodline. Please let me know.

  19. Similar to Paddy M note, I love the podcast, in the middle of Bloodlines and would love to see the family trees.. Anyway they can be posted here would be great. Thank and keep podcasting!

    1. Thanks! If you’d be OK with my using your e-mail address given in your post, I’d be happy to e-mail you a bunch of supplementary materials for Bloodline. Please let me know.

  20. Hi Scott,

    I have been hoovering up your excellent programmes and would very much lie to repay you for work with money. I can’t find anywhere on this website that tells me how to do so and nor can I see one on your Facebook page. Grateful if you would reply to this post and let me and others know.

    Thank you so much again for your excellent work.

    Warmest regards,


    1. Hi Marcus! Thanks for the very kind message (I saw the copy on the Facebook site as well). I’m very glad you’ve been enjoying the podcast, I very much appreciate your offer, and you’re very welcome for the work. Just to let you know, I have a good solid engineering “day job” which allows me to do the podcasting as a hobby – an extremely time-consuming, but also thoroughly enjoyable, hobby 😉 You never know what the future might bring, but for now the things you can really do to help me out are reviewing the podcast (especially on iTunes), telling like-minded friends about it, and having them review it as well. My main goal is that everyone who might be interested in the podcast at least have the chance to listen and enjoy it – and hopefully (like you) really connect with it. That’s what makes all the effort worthwhile. Down the line there’s also a reasonable chance that I’ll be trying to publish a book, or run another charity fundraiser, or maybe even set up a tour. If I do any of those, then obviously I’d be happy for anything you might want to contribute. In the meantime, thanks again for listening and for stopping by. Take care – Scott C.

    1. Hi! First off, thanks! To answer your question: I did research and wrote (and re-wrote, and re-wrote) 6 – 10 page episode scripts for the better part of a year before I recorded anything. Otherwise, you just need a computer, a microphone, (free) audio editing software, and a (paid) site to host your files. It’s really not technically or logistically that difficult. The main effort should be devoted to the researching and writing. Good luck! – Scott C.

  21. Hi,
    I’m new to this podcast that I’m finding very interesting. I came here looking for the additional materials for the original series. I guess you hadn’t had the chance to fix that. Hope that will be available soon, as I’m sure I will keep listening to your podcasts. One suggestion would be to use google drive folders for those materials, making the folders public and share the links here. Otherwise if you could email me the materials I would be grateful.
    Thanks a lot

    1. Hi! Thanks for stopping by. So…unfortunately I’ve migrated my podcast hosting service a few times since I did those early episodes, and the latest service doesn’t have the same functionality to post all those files. BUT I’ll be very happy to e-mail them to you (I’ll use the gmail address above).
      Take care, and enjoy! – Scott C.

  22. Hi Scott,
    I’m a new listener to your podcast. I came across it in an interview with Mike Duncan about Revolutions. He mentioned discussing the topic with you on one of his tours and how he was planning to cover the subject. Great story!
    I’m 6 episodes in now, totally hooked, and really enjoying it, it’s a great podcast.
    Like some of your listeners above I was looking for the missing sidebar material. I wonder if you could email it onto me too, I would really appreciate it.
    – Michael

    1. Hi Michael! That is a funny (and true!) story about Mike & me. Could you possibly send me the link to the interview? Thanks! I’m very glad you’re enjoying the series. You may be happy to hear that I’ve just started writing a book (my first!) on the Near East & Central Asia around the end of the 3rd millennium BC. Regarding the sidebar material, yes, I’m REALLY sorry that all those links got dropped over the course of several web hosting transitions. But I do have quite a few files still on my laptop. Could you please remind me of the types of files I was referring to? Were they mostly images? I genuinely can’t recall. But I’m happy to pass you what I still have. Enjoy the series, and take care! – Scott C.

      1. Hi Chris,
        I came across the interview when I finished History of Rome and went to start Revolutions. Here is a link to the interview: https://podcast411.libsyn.com/411-i-tem-0228-mike-duncan-from-the-revolutions-and-the-history-of-rome-podcasts

        I thought I’d have a quick listen to see if I liked it. I’m hooked! I’m delaying Revolutions as a result.

        You mentioned that there were links to maps and images in the right hand sidebar, but due to relentless advances of modern technology they’re gone now. It would never have happened in Ancient Egypt! 🙂

        – Michael

        1. Hi! Thanks for passing along the interview, I believe I heard it WAAAAY back when it first came out. The story is 100% true as told 😉 Really glad you’re enjoying the podcast series. And yes, you’re right – I ditched the “right hand sidebar” blog design many years ago, and unfortunately I lost a lot of links to supporting information. I’ll send some stuff to your e-mail address above. Take care! – Scott C.

  23. Just finished listening to the original series. Great work! I really enjoyed it, and learned a lot from it. I came to this page hoping to find a list of recommended secondary sources about the Ancient World. Do you have a list of your favorite history books that deal with the period somewhere? (I already got Miles’s _Carthage Must Be Destroyed_ based on your recommendation in the last episode.)

    1. Hi! Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed the series. If OK with you, I will e-mail you my list of secondary sources to the e-mail you used above. Take care! – Scott C.

  24. Hi Scott! Just starting on your podcast after it was recommended to me, and some things I remember from school history are making a lot more sense after the first couple episodes. I was wondering if you’ve got a bibliography somewhere on your website or linked in a pastebin or something? I’d like to dig deeper on some of the things you mentioned. Thanks for your time!

    1. Hi Naomi! Thanks for stopping by, glad you’re enjoying the podcast. Yes, I have a reference list (though it’s no longer posted). If OK, will e-mail it to you at the e-mail above. Take care – Scott C.

      1. Hi Scott

        Would also value the bibliography- fantastic first episode.

        Stumbled across this but glad I did

        1. Thanks very much! I’ll e-mail the bibliography for the first series to your e-mail address above. Enjoy! – Scott

    1. Hi! Thanks for stopping by, very glad you’re enjoying the podcast. I’m currently writing new episodes. Take care! – Scott

  25. OK. Was starting to get a little worried, since it has been a while since The Splendid Flame. Hope you are well. Great podcast!

    1. Thanks! Producing my recent “The Bronze Age” course on Avid.fm took quite a bit of time & effort. And I still have a regular full-time “day job” 😉 But I try to produce new TAW episodes as frequently as I can. Take care! – Scott C.

  26. Hi Scott,
    I have always loved reading about Indian history and got intrigued to know more about the genesis and other civilizations after visiting few archeological sites in Mexico and Egypt. During the COVID time, I started listening to your Podcast and got hooked into it. Keep it up.

    1. Hi, thanks for stopping by! Yes, India, Mexico and Egypt also have wonderful ancient history sites. I’ve travelled through Mexico and Egypt, and hope to make it to India some day. Glad you’re enjoying the podcast, take care! – Scott

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