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AP World History Period 1 Review Questions and Explanations

This article is part of the AP World History Review series. You can also view articles on:
APWH Period 1 Review (this article)
APWH Period 2 Review
APWH Period 3 Review
APWH Period 4 Review
APWH Period 5 Review

Introduction - A Timeline of Period 1

Period 1 in the new AP World History exam begins around 8000 BCE when human civilization was just beginning to get a foothold in the early settlements of mesopotamia and ancient ancient Egypt (even more ancient than Pharaohs and duelists, which was around 3000 BCE). The College Board calls this the period of "Technological and Environmental Transformations" signaled largely by the rise of agriculture and organization at a grand scale among early settlers. For the first time, human beings didn't have to travel between seasons to find habitable areas. We had learned to control our environment and stay in one place for longer periods of time.

world map of early human settlements in Mesopotamia and Egypt around 8000 BCE at the beginning of ap world history period 1

Credit: California Academy of Sciences

We can see above the early settlements in Mesopotamia that occurred in the fertile land around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Settlements in Egypt had also begun to wield the power of agriculture by now, although by no means were these early settlements exactly thriving. Within the next 5000 years, these early settlements will evolve to become more complex societies with more advancements in technology and culture like irrigation, trade, writing, art, a rule of law, and complex social norms. New societies will also form in the Indus Valley and around China's Yellow River.

This period ends at 600 BCE. By then, we start to see a rise of classical civilizations like the ones present in ancient Greece and Rome. Civilizations in China and India had also begun to thrive. The early settlements that had been created in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia had grown. Even South America and Central America were beginning to witness the beginnings of their great ancient civilizations like the Mayas, Incas, and Aztecs—more than 2000 years before Columbus or the Spanish "discovered" America.

world map of human agriculture and population around 600 BCE at the end of ap world history period 1

Credit: California Academy of Sciences

Now the picture completely changes. Much of Europe is being populated. Signs of agriculture are starting to emerge throughout the continent with a large concentration in the Italian Peninsula. There are also concentrations of population in the Indus Valley, Southern India, China, Japan, and Mexico. This growth also came with technological and cultural advances like architecture, complex governments, and transcontinental trade. It marked the early stages of the Classical Era, which is covered in more detail in Period 2.

Note: you can access the review questions discussed below in an online worksheet format at You may also use that link to assign these questions to your students if you are a teacher.

Stimulus Based: Questions 1 - 4

Use the following stimulus for questions 1 through 4:

ap world history stimulus 1

Learning Objective: CUL-5
1. The above structure best represents what type of architecture?

  • Roman
  • Monumental
  • Hierarchical
  • Greek

What do you think is the correct answer? Take a moment and answer the question mentally.


The image represents a ziggurat, which represents monumental architecture, or architecture that incorporates religion and the civilization’s specific culture.

Why It's the Best Answer

Monumental Architecture is a broad term covering any type of public building built using stone or rock. In the above image, the trees indicate that the structure may have been used as a makeshift park. This is further confirmed with the group of people walking together from the bottom right.

Roman architecture is not the best answer because Romans often used whitish or grayish materials in their architecture, like concrete, marble, and limestone. Roman shapes were also often circular with plenty of cylindrical columns, domes, and arches. Greek architecture, like Roman architecture, often used whitish or grayish materials like marble and limestone. The unique characteristics about Greek architecture include the beautifully adorned columns, an intense obsession about proportions, and triangular roofs. Finally, hierarchical architecture is not even a type of architecture and was just included there as a trick choice.

Learning Objective: CUL-5
2. Which of the following had similar function and design to the image above?

  • Meso-American Pyramids
  • Egyptian Pyramids
  • The Roman Colosseum
  • The Arc de Triomphe

The Meso-American Pyramids are the only example have having similar design and function (religious ceremonies). The Egyptian Pyramids were for burial purposes. The other choices are incorrect in both function and design.

Why It's the Best Answer

Meso-American Pyramids were also designed for religious ceremonies and they looked similar with large staircases on each side and a gathering place near the top. Below is a well-known Meso-American pyramid, El Castillo in Chichen Itza. Notice the similarities.

El Capital in Chichen Itzá, credit: Wikipedia

Egyptian pyramids may have been a tempting choice, but Egyptian pyramids were quite different compared to the Meso-American pyramids and served a different purpose, too. Egyptian pyramids didn't have steps up and down the sides, but rather diagonal ramps along each side, spiraling their way to the top. Whereas Meso-American pyramids and Mesopotamian pyramids served religious purpose, Egyptian pyramids were a way for pharaohs to lavishly bury their dead family members while still adorned in gold and jewelry and often served as tombs and burial sites rather than for religious purposes. Since the ancient Egyptians believed in the afterlife, it was important for them to make sure their dead had a successful journey by giving them all their valuable possessions, sometimes including clothing and accessories. This is why raiders would often try to loot these tombs for precious items.

The Roman Colosseum is donut-shaped, like in the movie Gladiator, and was used for entertainment, so that's not a good answer. Similarly, the Arc de Triomphe is a specific piece of architecture that would not be constructed for another few thousand years. Its purpose was also political—celebrating Napoleon's victory—rather than religious, so that is not a great choice either.

Learning Objective: CUL-4
3. The above structure was most likely used for which of the following reasons?

  • Religious Practices
  • Political Organization
  • Communal Marketplace
  • Urban Housing

The above image is of a ziggurat, which was used for religious practices in Mesopotamia. It was believed that they connected heaven and the Earth.

Why It's the Best Answer

You probably know by now that this structure was used for religious purposes, but in case you didn't, Communal Marketplace may have been a tempting choice. What's missing in the picture are stalls or carts with vendors and goods being sold and bought. Additionally, communal marketplaces in Mesopotamia generally tended to be open spaces out on the street with plenty of foot traffic.

Political organization may have also been a possibility because of the grandeur of kings and rulers commonly associated with the time period. However, the structure is lacking in privacy that a king or his politicians would want. It would be annoying to have some people walking in during the middle of a political meeting. Finally, urban housing is not a good answer because there is a clear lack of windows and the ability to easily navigate to other parts of the city. It seems like this structure is fairly standalone and requires some work getting to. This is another reason why religious practice would be the best answer because important religious buildings were often constructed in places of significance rather than places that were convenient to get to.

Learning Objective: CUL-5
4. The cultures of Mesopotamia had which of the following belief system?

  • Agnostic
  • Monotheistic
  • Polytheistic
  • Atheistic

Mesopotamia had a polytheistic belief system, as seen by how each city had its own deity.

Why It's the Best Answer

This is a relatively straightforward facts-only question. Either you knew it or you didn't. The explanation summarizes it well. The only thing to add is that Mesopotamian religion has died out and not much of it has survived, even in most pop culture references, except one: Tiamat, who was a goddess of chaos and the ocean. She was often depicted as a sea dragon or hydra, and has gone on to get honorable mentions and references in fantasy stories and worlds that have achieved cult-like followings like Dungeons and Dragons and League of Legends. A quick google image search shows what's become of Tiamat in the last few thousand years.

Tiamat Google Image Search

That picture on the top right has to be from over 5000 years ago. No way the years have kept her looking that good.

Rapid Review: Questions 5 - 6

Learning Objective: ENV-2
5. Pastoral nomads are similar to settled farmers in that they both:

  • Grow crops
  • Domesticate animals
  • Settle into larger communities
  • Have job specialization

Both pastoral nomads and settled farmers rely on the domestication of animals for their economic survival.

Why It's the Best Answer

A good way to recognize pastoral nomadism is to remember that pastor sounds like pasture, which is land used for grazing by animals. That means pastoral nomads definitely used animals (the most common were sheep because these nomads were often shepherds) to make a living. Farmers also needed the help of cattle like ox to mow the fields, cows for milk and meat, and chicken for its eggs and meat. So, both groups used to domesticate animals. This invention is often called animal husbandry. Also known as animal domestication and enslavement. Keep that in mind, future husbands.

Growing crops is not the best answer because only the farmers generally grew crops. This is why they settled near fertile land like the fertile crescent. Similarly, it was farmers who eventually settled into larger and larger communities of farms, which eventually became settlements, which eventually became cities and empires. It was within these cities and empires and even some settlements that job specializations arose over time. Interestingly enough, during the early days when pastoral nomads and settled farmers coexisted, they often relied on each others' unique goods like food and clothing and exchanged them through trade. So, people have been buying good food and going shopping since the beginning of human civilization.

Learning Objective: ENV-1
6. All of the following are developments for the period 8000 BCE to 600 CE EXCEPT:

  • Agriculture
  • Iron technology
  • Writing
  • Gunpowder technology

The development of agriculture, use of iron, and writing all occurred in this period. However, the use of gunpowder technology did not begin until the time period 600 to 1450, during the Song dynasty

Why It's the Best Answer

Agriculture is what started the whole trend and the reason why this period is important. Agriculture marked the first time human beings were no longer tied to the trends of the seasons and no longer had to move from place to place for survival. As these started to create communities of settlers, writing and communication were invented as a way to tell stories, including stories of religion. Since religion developed around this time, writing and communication had to also have developed because modern archaeologists' understanding of ancient religion is largely through written and depicted stone tablets. However, by no means was writing widespread and did not become widespread until the classical era (Period 2).

Iron was in a similar situation to writing in that it caught on towards the later part of Period 1, right before the classical era. Humans had begun to use iron as early as 1500 BC in India. Its use did not become globally widespread until about 800 BC when almost all civilizations in the world had started using it. Gunpowder technology is the outlier here because it would not be invented until at least the 9th century AD and did not become popular among Europeans until the Middle Ages in the 1300s.

Conclusion - Summary of Period 1

Note: the above questions can be given as a quiz or edited (if you're a teacher) by viewing the questions here

Period 1 marked the beginning of human civilization roughly 10,000 years ago when traditionally nomadic humans began to settle down and form communities. Over the next 7000 years, these communities and prehistoric civilizations grew into early versions of classical civilizations. This period was characterized by quite a few inventions that contributed to human migration patterns, changing them from mobile and nomadic to more static and concentrated in smaller areas. In addition to agriculture, which started the whole pattern, we also saw the invention of animal husbandry, writing, metal working, building, construction, art, and architecture. Cultures were also beginning to form, with many societies being largely patriarchal in nature, but with varying attitudes towards family, women, and religion.

As these early civilizations evolved, their societies developed a societal hierarchy, a type of pecking order for their rulers, their citizens, workers, and slaves. Systems of law and cultural etiquette were also common among these civilizations, although they were far from the complex legal systems and trial procedures that began to be developed in the classical civilizations. Eventually, these societies became complex enough for citizens to become specialized in their professions. Bricklayers, politicians, merchants, blacksmiths, potters, bakers, and other specializations emerged as people began to enjoy diversity in food, clothing, and housing. This level of focus on one's craft led to brilliant advancements in art, science, and culture in the classical era.

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