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The Old World consists of Europe, Asia, and Africa, regarded collectively as the part of the world known to Europeans before the European contact of the Americas. It is used in the context of, and contrast with, the New World (consisting of North and South America and Oceania).
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, in the area of the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, the Persian plateau, India 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"), Eastern (Zoroastrian and Abrahamic) and Far Eastern (Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism) cultural spheres.
The concept of the three continents in the Old World, viz. Asia, Africa, Europe (Afro-Eurasia) goes back to classical antiquity. Their boundaries as defined by Ptolemy and other geographers of antiquity were drawn along the Nile and Don rivers. This definition remained influential throughout the Middle Ages (see T and O map) and the Early Modern period.