Category Archives: The First Humans

The Neolithic Revolution (c. 10,000 – 4, 000 BCE)

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AN AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION

early agriculture

The neolithic revolution started at the end of the Ice Age, around 10,000 BCE. The cause of this huge change, was the dramatic shift, from hunting and gathering to systematic agriculture and animal husbandry. By planting grains, vegetables, and domesticating animals, the early humans were able to provide a continuous food supply, which allowed them to give up the nomadic way of life and settle in communities.

Systematic agriculture developed independently between 9,000 and 7,000 BCE in four different areas of the world. In each of these areas different plants were cultivated:

agriculture near east

In the near east there was wheat, barely, and lentils.

southern asia agriculture

In Southern Asia there was rice and millet.

west african agriculture

In West Africa there was millet and yams.

anicent american agriculture

In the Americas there was corn (maize).

NEOLITHIC FARMING VILLAGES

catal huyuk

The Neolithic village of Catal Huyuk, in present day Turkey, reveals how the growing of crops and the raising of animals gave rise to permanent settlements. The oldest known agriculture was wheat. People grew their own food and stored it in storerooms in their homes. Domesticated animals such as cattle, supplied meat, milk, and hides. Food surpluses also allowed the birth of culture. People were able to do other things aside from searching constantly for their next meal. Some people became artisans and made weapons and jewelry, which they were then able to trade with their neighbors.

catal huyuk goddess

Religious shrines and statues, like this Catal Huyuk goddess statue, have been found at Neolithic farming village sites. The voluptuous female form, with large breasts and hips, generally means the statute was a fertility goddess and a mother earth figure. These discoveries reveal the growing role of religion in the live of Neolithic people.

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The Paleolithic Age (c. 2,500,000 – 10,000 BCE)

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THE HUNTER AND GATHERERS OF THE OLD STONE AGE

stone age tools

What sets the human species apart from the others, is the ability to make tools. The earliest known tools were made of stone, which is where the Stone Age gets its name from.

stoneage

For hundreds and thousands of years humans were hunters and gatherers. Early humans came to know which animals to hunt and which plants to eat. Cultivation and Pastoralism came much later. They did not know how to grow crops and raise animals, but they did know how to gather wild fruits, nuts, berries, grain, and green plants. They could also hunt buffalo, horses, bison, wild goats, and reindeer. In the coastal areas, early humans could also hunt fish.

stone age spear

Due to the way humans obtained their food, they had to live by certain patterns. Archaeologist and Anthropologist assume that the Paleolithic people lived in small bands of 20 – 30, and they were nomadic, following their food sources. Hunting was a group effort and required extensive observation of the prey. Over many years,  tools became more refined and efficient, such as the invention of the spear and the bow and arrow. Eventually, there were also harpoons and fish hooks made from animal bone.

stone age woman

Both men and women were responsible for finding food, and finding food was pretty much the only main task of the Stone Age people. Since women bore and fed the children, they usually stayed close to the camps and gathered berries, nuts, and grains that had grown nearby. Men hunted far away from camp. There is speculation that men and women roles were generally equal and both made important decisions that affected their band.

stone age fire

Some Stone Age humans from colder climates, found shelter in caves. Over time they used what was available to create more efficient forms of shelter. The most common shelters were probably tents made of wooden poles (or mammoth bone poles, if there was no wood) covered with animal hides. Fire, which was believed to be used as early as 500,000 years ago, was a source of heat and light for the Stone Age humans. Fire also enabled the early humans to cook their food, making it taste better, last longer, and/or digest easier.

chauvet rhino

Making tools and creating fire were key to survival, but Paleolithic people did more than just survive. Cave paintings found in southwestern France and northern Spain reveal that these people had culture. Many of the animals in the paintings were not food sources, which means that these paintings were either religious in nature, or aesthetic.

The First Humans

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Oldest Tools

There are no written records in existence for the prehistory of mankind. The story of humanity depends upon archaeological. and more recently, biological information, which anthropologists and archaeologists use to formulate theories of our early past. Although modern science has given us more precise methods for examining prehistory, much of our understanding of early humans still relies on conjecture.

hominid1

The earliest human-like creatures- known as hominids- Existed in Africa as long as 3 – 4 million years ago. Known as Australopithecus, they flourished in East and South Africa and were the first hominids to make simple stone tools.

 hominid2

Another stage of development occurred around 1.5 million years ago when Homo erectus emerged. These hominids made use of larger more varied tools, and was the first hominid to leave Africa and move into both Europe and Asia.

hominid3

Around 250,000 years ago, a crucial stage in human development began with the emergence of Homo sapiens. These more modern appearing hominids appeared in Africa between 200,000 and 150,000 years ago. Recent evidence indicates that they began to spread outside of Africa around 70,000 years ago.

spread of homo sapiens

This map shows probable dates for different movements, although many of these are still controversial.

hominid4

These modern humans, who were our direct ancestors, soon encountered other hominids, such as the Neanderthals, whose remains were first found in the Neander valley in Germany. Neanderthal remains have since been found in both Europe and the western part of Asia. They have been dated between 200,000 – 30,000 BCE. Neanderthals relied on a variety of stone tools and were the first early people to bury their dead, By 30,000 BCE, Homo sapiens had replace the Neanderthals, who had largely become extinct, and by 10,000 BCE, members of the Homo sapien species could be found throughout the world. By that time it was the only human species left. All humans today, whether they are European, Australian, Aborigines, or Africans, belong to the subspecies of human beings.

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