Old World

Last updated

.mw-parser-output .legend{page-break-inside:avoid;break-inside:avoid-column}.mw-parser-output .legend-color{display:inline-block;min-width:1.25em;height:1.25em;line-height:1.25;margin:1px 0;text-align:center;border:1px solid black;background-color:transparent;color:black}.mw-parser-output .legend-text{}
Old World LocationAfricaEurasia.png
  Old World
Map of the "Old World" (the 2nd century Ptolemy world map in a 15th-century copy) Ptolemy World Map.jpg
Map of the "Old World" (the 2nd century Ptolemy world map in a 15th-century copy)

The Old World consists of Africa, Europe, and Asia, regarded collectively as the part of the world known to the inhabitants thereof before contact with the Americas. [1] The Americas are therefore contrariwise called the New World. [2]



In the context of archaeology and world history, the term "Old World" includes those parts of the world which were in (indirect) cultural contact from the Bronze Age onwards, resulting in the parallel development of the early civilizations, mostly in the temperate zone between roughly the 45th and 25th parallels north, in the area of the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Persian plateau, Indian subcontinent and China.

These regions were connected via the Silk Road trade route, and they have a pronounced Iron Age period following the Bronze Age. In cultural terms, the Iron Age was accompanied by the so-called Axial Age, referring to cultural, philosophical and religious developments eventually leading to the emergence of the historical Western (Hellenism, "classical"), Near Eastern (Zoroastrian and Abrahamic) and Far Eastern (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Taoism) cultural spheres.


The concept of the three continents in the Old World, viz. Asia, Africa, and Europe, goes back to classical antiquity. Their boundaries as defined by Ptolemy and other geographers of antiquity were drawn along the Nile and Don rivers.[ citation needed ] This definition remained influential throughout the Middle Ages (see T and O map) and the Early Modern period.[ citation needed ]

Other names

The mainland of Afro-Eurasia (excluding islands or island groups such as the British Isles, Japan, Sri Lanka, Madagascar and the Malay Archipelago) has been referred to as the "World Island". The term may have been coined by Sir Halford John Mackinder in The Geographical Pivot of History . [3]

The equivalent of the Old World had names in some of its ancient cultures, including Midgard in Germanic cosmology and Oikoumene among the Greeks.

See also

Related Research Articles

Bronze Age Prehistoric period and age studied in archaeology; part of the Holocene Epoch.

The Bronze Age is a prehistoric period, approximately 3300 BC to 1200 BC, that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the three-age Stone-Bronze-Iron system, as proposed in modern times by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, for classifying and studying ancient societies.

The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory and protohistory of humanity. It was preceded by the Bronze Age and the Stone Age. The concept has been mostly applied to Europe and the Ancient Near East, but also, by analogy, to other parts of the Old World.

Ancient history Human history from the earliest records to the end of the classical period

Ancient history is the aggregate of past events from the beginning of writing and recorded human history and extending as far as post-classical history. The phrase may be used either to refer to the period of time or the academic discipline.

Ethnic groups in Chinese history

Ethnic groups in Chinese history refer to various or presumed ethnicities of significance to the history of China, gathered through the study of Classical Chinese literature, Chinese and non-Chinese literary sources and inscriptions, historical linguistics, and archaeological research.

Western Hemisphere Geographical term for the half of Earth which lies west of the prime meridian and east of the antimeridian

The Western Hemisphere is a geographical term for the half of Earth which lies west of the prime meridian and east of the antimeridian. The other half is called the Eastern Hemisphere. In geopolitical terms, the context in which the term is most often used, the Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as "North and South America and the surrounding waters. Longitudes 20°W and 160°E are often considered its boundaries." It may be used in a cultural or geopolitical sense as a synonym for the "New World".

Geopolitics is the study of the effects of Earth's geography on politics and international relations. While geopolitics usually refers to countries and relations between them, it may also focus on two other kinds of states: de facto independent states with limited international recognition and relations between sub-national geopolitical entities, such as the federated states that make up a federation, confederation or a quasi-federal system.

Southern Levant Geographical region

The Southern Levant is a geographical region encompassing the southern half of the Levant. It corresponds approximately to modern-day Israel, Palestine, and Jordan; some definitions also include southern Lebanon, southern Syria and/or the Sinai Peninsula. As a strictly geographical description, it is sometimes used by archaeologists and historians to avoid the religious and political connotations of other names for the area.

Eastern Hemisphere Half of Earth which lies east of the prime meridian

The Eastern Hemisphere is a geographical term for the half of Earth which is east of the prime meridian and west of the antimeridian. It is also used to refer to Afro-Eurasia and Australia, in contrast with the Western Hemisphere, which includes mainly North and South America. The Eastern Hemisphere may also be called the "Oriental Hemisphere." In addition, it may be used in a cultural or geopolitical sense as a synonym for the "Old World."

Geography of Asia Overview of the geography of Asia

Geography of Asia reviews geographical concepts of classifying Asia, the central and eastern part of Eurasia, comprising approximately fifty countries.

Geostrategy, a subfield of geopolitics, is a type of foreign policy guided principally by geographical factors as they inform, constrain, or affect political and military planning. As with all strategies, geostrategy is concerned with matching means to ends—in this case, a country's resources with its geopolitical objectives. Strategy is as intertwined with geography as geography is with nationhood, or as Colin S. Gray and Geoffrey Sloan state it, "[geography is] the mother of strategy."

The Geographical Pivot of History

"The Geographical Pivot of History" is an article submitted by Halford John Mackinder in 1904 to the Royal Geographical Society that advances his heartland theory. In this article, Mackinder extended the scope of geopolitical analysis to encompass the entire globe.

Post-classical history Period between ancient history and modern history

Post-classical history, as used in world history, generally runs from about 500 AD to 1500 AD. The period is characterized by the expansion of civilizations geographically and development of trade networks between civilizations.

Boundaries between the continents of Earth Overview of the boundaries between the continents of Earth

The boundaries between the continents of Earth are generally a matter of geographical convention. Several slightly different conventions are in use. The number of continents is most commonly considered seven but may range as low as four when Afro-Eurasia and the Americas are each considered a single continent. An island can be considered to be associated with a given continent by either lying on the continent's adjacent continental shelf or being a part of a microcontinent on the same principal tectonic plate. An island can also be entirely oceanic while still being associated with a continent by geology or by common geopolitical convention. Another example is the grouping into Oceania of the Pacific Islands with Australia and Zealandia.

Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history between the use of the first stone tools by hominins c. 3.3 million years ago and the invention of writing systems. The use of symbols, marks, and images appears very early among humans, but the earliest known writing systems appeared c. 5000 years ago and it took thousands of years for writing systems to be widely adopted. In some human cultures, writing systems were not used until the nineteenth century and, in a few, not even until the present. The end of prehistory therefore came at very different dates in different places, and the term is less often used in discussing societies where prehistory ended relatively recently.

Afro-Eurasia Landmass consisting of Africa, Asia, and Europe

Afro-Eurasia is a landmass comprising the continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe. The terms are compound words of the names of its constituent parts. Its mainland is the largest and most populous contiguous landmass on Earth.

Continent Very large landmass identified by convention

A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest in area to smallest, these seven regions are: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia. Variations with fewer continents may merge some of these, for example some systems include Eurasia or America as single continents.

Eurasia Combined continental landmass of Europe and Asia

Eurasia is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Primarily in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres, it spans from the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula in the west to the Japanese archipelago in the east. The continental landmass is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Africa to the west, the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and by Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian Ocean to the south. The division between Europe and Asia as two continents is a historical social construct, as they have no clear physical separation between them; thus, in some parts of the world, Eurasia is recognized as the largest of the six, five, or four continents on Earth. In geology, Eurasia is often considered as a single rigid megablock. However, the rigidity of Eurasia is debated based on paleomagnetic data.


  1. "Old World". Merriam-Webster Dictionary .
  2. "New world". Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  3. See Francis P. Sempa, "Mackinder's World." American Diplomacy (UNC.edu). Retrieved 8 September 2018.