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Key to entries

Items in normal text indicate South African non-theatrical events and activities Items printed in bold indicate South African theatre and performance events. All items in italics refer to international (i.e. non-South African) events or international theatre and performance events


2.5-3 million years BC

Beginning of Early Stone age

1-3 million years BC

Australopithecus lives in southern Africa

90 000 - 1 million years BC

Homo erectus lives in southern Africa

±30 000-130 000BC

Evolution of Homo sapiens in southern Africa

Middle stone age

±25 000 – 26 000 BC

Earliest dated rock art

Stone age hunter gatherers evolve in southern Africa

±10 000-15 000 years BC

Scattered groups of hunter-gatherers (Khoisan) settle as sole residents in Southern Africa (till ±1AD), gradually evolving a pastoral culture among some groups (i.e. the Khoi-Khoi ), while others remained hunter-gatherers (i.e the San)

In Mesopotamia, society shifts from food-gathering to food-producing


Hassuna culture introduces irrigation, permanent dwellings and fine pottery


Area between Babylon and Persian Gulf settled. Trade develops between Persian Gulf and Mediterranean.


Sumerians settle on banks of Euphrates. They develop pictographs to keep administrative records.


Early records of ritual, Trance dances and communal narratives in rock paintings of the San.

Egyptians introduce calendar, hieroglyphs, Memphis built. Egyptian ritual dramas, the “Pyramid Text” rituals; Ramessun Dramatic Papyrus. Coronation plays.


Early Dynastic period in Egypt. Coloured mosaics used by Sumerains, e.g. at the Painted Temple at Tell Uqair.


Cuneiform writing used by Sumerians for first formal contracts for land sales. “Praying Statues” from Tel Asmar indicate use of expressionistic techniques to show religious feeling among Sumerians. Gilgamesh, hero of Sumerian legend, reigns as king of Erech. Indus Valley civilization in India begins.


The Triumph of Horus, The Memphite Drama & Abydos Passion Play in Egypt. Old Kingdom in Egypt begins. From Step Pyramid at Sakkarah to Great Pyramids and Sphinx. In Mesopotamia, at the tombs of Ur, many gold and silver artifacts are buried.


Dance and music develops in Korea. Legendary king Dan Gun in Korea. Hsia Dynasty in China.


Art and architecture of Mesopotamia declines in creativity and spontaneity. Beginning of the Hsia dynasty in China.Sumerian power declines and Elamites destroy Ur. Middle Kingdom in Egypt begins.

±1991-1786 BC

Period of Egyptian cultural splendour: sculpture, portraiture, literature, architecture


Potter’s wheel introduced in China. Pigs, goats and sheep domesticated by Chinese. Hammurabi becomes King of Babylon and gradually brings all of Mesopotamia under his rule. Introduces his Code of Law. Shang Dynasty in China


Rig Veda (India), some of the vedas in dialogue form. Shamanistic rituals in China. Book of Odes (China) . Festival of Yong-Go, the welcoming of the drum (Korea) Books of the Dead (Egypt). Hittites invade Mesopotamia from Turkey. New Kingdom in Egypt. Aryans invade Indian sub-continent. Kingdom of Buyo in Korea. Chou Dynasty in China. Hittites introduce the use of iron to Mesopotamia. Gradually the Assyrians start using it to make arms. Under the Shang dynasty logographic writing system evolves in China. Chinese artisans master techniques of bronze casting of vessels, stone and ivory carving. Wheeled chariots and composite bows of wood, horn and sinew intorduced by Chinese armies.


Late Dynastic period (Egypt). African Kingdoms develop. Olmec civilization in Gulf coast (Mexico). the Chavin civilization (Peru). Greeks expell Persians. Olmec civilization in Gulf coast (Mexico), the Chavin civilization in Peru and develop man-jaguar cults. Jade and basalt sculptures, hieroglyphc writing in Gulf Coast region, gold ornaments in Peru. First poetry and history written in China.

±800-700 BC

Homer writes the Iliad and the Oddesey . Cultural Rennaissance in Egypt. Later vedas in India, early upanishads. The Assyrian empire expands under Tiglath-Pileser III to stretch from the Persian Gulf to the borders of Egypt. Babylon destroyed. Legendary founding of Rome. Great War in India (recorded in Mahabarata).


Phoenician sailors in Egyptian employ round Cape of Storms (according to Herodotus).

Dithyrambs (choral performances) performed in Greece. Festival of Tragedy introduced in Athens. Thespis introduces first actor. Nebuchadrezzar II rules the neo-Babylonian empire. Razes Jerusalem and takes the Jews into captivity in Babylon. He also builds the “Tower of Babel”. Cyrus the Great of Persia conquers Babylon. Iron ploughs and swords come into wide use inChina. Monte Alban, major ceremonial centre, begun in Oaxaca region, Mexico. Gautama Buddha (India), Kung Fu-tze (Confucius – China) Persia conquers Egypt.


Development of high Greek tragedy. (Aeschylus and Sophocles) Satyr play added. Contest in Comedy introduced, Old Comedy flourishes in Greece (notably Aristophanes). Euripides reduces role of Chorus in Tragedy. Confucius travels from court to court in China, preaching respect for tradition, morality and duty. Herodotus visits Egypt. Lao Tan preaches conformity with nature, evolving Taoism. A written code of law in China.

±400-300 BC

New Comedy flourishes in Athens. Theatre of Dionysus built, Aristotle writes Poetics. Kautilya, Artha Sastra (India) reports on thearical companies. (Disputed) . Shamanistic practices and Ch’u Tz’u anthology containing Nine Hymns (China) Evidence ot theatrical activity in Korea. Various philosophies of Mao Tzu, Mencius and Chuang Tzu emerge in China. Alexander the Great conquers Egypt and India. Ptolomaic period in Egypt begins. Jomon period in Korea, followed by Yayoi period.

±300-200 BC

First recorded gladiatorial combats in Rome. Literary plays introduced in Rome. (notably Naevius, Plautus, Terence, Ennius). The Mimes at the Ludi Florales. Beginnings of string puppets (India) Sanskrit drama (in India, influenced by Greek New Comedy). Great Wall of China built. Confucianism becomes state religion in China. 2nd Punic Wars (Rome) China becomes a centralized empire under Ch’in Shih Huang Ti. Han Dynasty in China under Emperor Kao Tsu.

±200 -100 BC


Brilliant textiles and elaborate funeral offerings developed in Paracas, Peru

±50-44 BC

Development of theatre buildings in Italy. Vitruvius’s De Architectura. Roman theatres, based on his ideas, built throughout the Roman Empire

27 BC – 14 AD

Theatre of Marcellus in Rome. Virgil’s Aeneid. Augustus and the golden age of Rome

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