December 7, 2012

Early History of Civilization

I wanted to know more about the human prehistory; where we come from and what we really know about our own origins.The timeline below gives you a rough overview; it is a fascinating story. One way to sequence human prehistory is by the type of tools that were in use. Early on, researchers came up with a three stage system of stone, bronze, and iron that allowed them to sequence the origins of human civilization. This system, however, does not work for every geographic area.

The Stone age period comprises more than a million years, and gets divided into an Old Stone Age (or Paleolithic)  and a New Stone Age (or Neolithic), which is characterized by the adoption of agriculture. During the whole period major climate and other changes occurred, which affected the evolution of humans. Humans themselves evolved into their current morphological form during the later period of the Stone Age.

Stone Age was usually followed by a Bronze Age, during which metalworking technology allowed bronze (copper and tin or other metals) tools to become more common. The transition out of the Stone Age occurred between 6000 BC and 2500 BC for much of humanity living in North Africa, Asia and Europe. In some regions, such as Subsaharan Africa, the Stone Age was followed directly by an Iron Age. It is generally believed that the Middle East and southeastern Asian regions progressed past Stone Age technology around 6000 BC. Europe and the rest of Asia became post-Stone Age societies by about 4000 BC. The proto-Inca cultures of South America continued at a Stone Age level until around 2000 BC, when gold, copper and silver made their entrance, the rest following later. Australia remained in the Stone Age until the 17th century.

Prehistoric changes are seen in the usage of fire, agriculture and food storage,  pottery, or and animal domestication. The domestication of horses, for instance, has  immense social and economic significance. It  advances communication, transport, food production and warfare. Prehistory generally comes to an end with the invention of writing, which gives us different records, and enables the recording of history.

Here is a short timeline, gathered from various sources:

  • 1.8 million years ago: Fire and then cooking. 1
  • 400,000 years ago: Homo erectus (‘‘Peking Man’’) lives at Zhoukoudian, China; domestication of fire becomes widespread; soon thereafter, first known artificial shelters are built at TerraAmata, France; first known suggested throwing spears are made at Schoeningen, Germany;
  • Earliest traces of archaic Homo Sapiens: as early as 300.000 BC (early Neandertals), and specifically Homo Sapiens starts at 160.000 BC.
  • 50,000+ years ago Neanderthals practice deliberate burial of their dead
  • Stone age: Stone tools starting around 100.000 years ago. Domestication of animals around 15.000 BC.
  • Earliest cave paintings: 40.000 BC.
  • 12,000–15,000 years ago (possibly earlier) First humans arrive in the Americas
  • Agriculture and Plough ca. 10.000 to 8000 BC
  • Copper starts about 8000 BC
  • Wheel ca. 4000 BC
  • Domestication of horses around 3500BC
  • Earliest writing systems: Mesopotamia, 3000 BC.
  • Bronze Age: starts around 3500 BC, to 1100 BC
  • Great Pyramid of Gizeh, 2560 BC.
  • Iron Age: Ca. 1200 BC, ends with the beginning of the Classical Greek period in 500 BC

Notes:

  1. Wrangham, Richard. Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. First Trade Paper Edition. Basic Books, 2010. Print.

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