What You Need to Know About the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages



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What You Need to Know About the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages





  1. Paleolithic Migration

    1. From Africa all over the world

    2. To the Americas over the Bering Strait land bridge – Ice Ages – but then cut off from contact when Ice Ages end

    3. Hunter-gatherers are considered nomads – people who move from place to place

    4. In general, women tended to gather, men to hunt; gathering produces more calories

  2. Neolithic Revolution (8000 BCE) begins in Middle East; “Neolithic” is defined by when people in a specific area settle down

    1. Causes: end of Ice Age; better weather for plant life; a gradual switch from gathering to planting; animal herds move further north; incentive to capture herds rather than just hunt them

    2. Results:

      1. People settle down: village communities

      2. Domestication of animals (livestock) and agriculture (grains first, then other plants) – control of the production process, breeding for desirable traits

      3. “Traditional Economy” – basic farming and herding; self-sufficiency

      4. Development of basic crafts: pottery, textiles, metal-working

      5. Increased food production, ability to store foods; people work harder than in Paleolithic

      6. Population rises, but more catastrophic events

        1. Spread of disease becomes more common due to closer association with other humans and animal

        2. Weather events (drought, flood) matter more, since the community is not mobile

      7. Tendencies emerge toward gender inequality: Men in the “public sphere”; women in the private sphere

      8. Tendencies emerge toward class inequality due to development of property

    3. Leads toward civilization (see below), but not in all places


What You Need to Know About the Ancient Civilizations





  1. River Valley Civilizations (4000 – 1000 BCE): Why Rivers?

    1. Water supply for irrigation

    2. Easier movement of trade goods

  2. General Characteristics of Ancient Civilizations

    1. Cities dominate the surrounding country-side and villages

    2. Organized religion

    3. Government and laws

    4. Record keeping – writing

    5. Surplus agriculture allows more people to engage in crafts, warfare, etc. Note that the economies of all pre-industrial societies is based primarily on agriculture

    6. Specialization of labor and social classes

    7. Technology – irrigation, wheel, bronze, astronomy (for knowledge of planting)

    8. Iron first invented by Hittites in 1000 BCE

  3. Egypt:

    1. the Nile flooded in a regular and predictable way – led to “optimistic” civilization, good afterlife

    2. natural geographic barriers (desert) protected it from invasion; tended toward unity

    3. Hieroglyphics – writing system

    4. Egyptian kings (Pharoahs) considered divine

  1. Mesopotamia

    1. “Fertile Crescent” between Tigris and Euphrates Rivers – where Iraq is today

    2. Tigris and Euphrates were unpredictable – floods and droughts – led to “pessimistic” society, bad afterlife – story of Gilgamesh’s failed pursuit of immortality

    3. subject to regular invasion – no natural physical barriers; tended toward disunity

    4. Cuneiform – writing system

    5. Mesopotamian kings considered representatives of the gods

    6. Hammurabi’s Code: a code of laws

      1. “an eye for an eye” (harsh punishment)

      2. punishment differentiated by class and gender of both victim and criminal

  2. China – Shang and Zhou Dynasties

    1. the “Mandate of Heaven” explained that the Emperor was chosen by Heaven and fell when he no longer carried out the will of heaven

    2. China was the most isolated of the four main river valley civilization

    3. Located along Huang He (Yellow River)

  3. Harrappa / Aryans

    1. Harrappa located in the Indus River Valley in what is today Pakistan

    2. Aryans – pastoral invaders from Central Asia; assume dominance over original inhabitants (Dravidians)

    3. Development of caste is linked to attempts by Aryans to prevent intermarriage

  4. Phoenicians

    1. Trading and merchant culture

    2. invented the alphabet

  5. Social Structure in the Ancient World

    1. Substantial class differentiation compared with Neolithic

      1. Aristocratic Landholders

      2. Prominence of Religious specialists and officials

      3. Merchants and Craftspeople

      4. Warriors and soldiers

      5. Scholars, literate people – government officials

      6. Agricultural labor – a mix of landholding peasants, bound serfs, agricultural (wage) laborers, slaves

    2. Substantial gender differentiation compared with Neolithic

      1. Look for “privatization” of women

      2. Look for women’s role as priestesses to decline as women gods become less important or non-existent

      3. Arranged marriages show women being treated as property

      4. Veiling of women in Babylon and Assyria no longer just a “custom” – enforced by the state’s laws

      5. Some differences – women in Egypt treated better than in Mesopotamia

    3. For most people (virtually all women, most male peasants), living in a “civilized” society meant a reduction in social status

    4. Which came first, “civilization” or “wilderness?”


What You Need to Know About Belief Systems





  1. Animism = Belief in many spirits in nature, animals, etc.

  2. Polytheism = Belief in many gods

  3. Monotheism = Belief in just one god: Christianity, Islam, Judaism

  4. All major religions are “ethical” – tell us how and why to behave well, and reward us for doing so

  5. Hinduism – India

    1. Polytheistic – many gods

    2. Caste – all people are assigned by ancestry to one of four social groups: Priests (Brahmins), warriors (Khystrias), merchants/craftsmen/herders (Vaisyas), peasants (Sudras); lack of social mobility

    3. Reincarnation – quality of your next life is based on deeds in this one

      1. Dharma – your caste duties

      2. Karma – your life balance sheet; how well you perform those duties

      3. Social function is to re-inforce caste: a way to advance if you accept your dharma; a punishment if you do not

    4. Moksha – leaving the earthly sphere; fusing with the universe or the infinite (salvation)

    5. Evolution over time: In early Hindu thought, only Brahmins can achieve moksha, through asceticism; later, all castes can achieve moksha through proper performance of dharma

  6. Buddhism – founded in India, practiced today mostly in China, Korea, Japan

    1. Founded by Siddhartha Gautama: the Buddha

    2. Four Noble Truths: all life is suffering; suffereing is caused ny desire; to end suffering, give up desire; follow the Eightfold Path – right thinking, action and meditation

    3. Reincarnation until you have given up all desire

    4. Enlightenment leads to Salvation – Nirvana

    5. Reach Nirvana by following the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path

    6. Spreads from India to China

    7. Sutras – texts: stories and parables about the teaching of the Buddha

    8. Evolution over time: Mahayana Buddhism allows for a path to Nirvana through good conduct, charity, prayer; sees Buddhas as gods who can be appealed to; boddhisatvas are “Buddhas-in-waiting” – have remained on earth to help you

  7. Confucianism – China

    1. Not a religion; no gods

    2. Teaches respect for elders – “filial piety”

    3. The 5 Relationships – father/son, husband/wife, older brother/younger brother, ruler/subject, friend/friend

    4. If everyone acts correctly, according to their role, society will prosper

  8. Judaism – founded in Middle East

    1. With Zoroastrianism, first Monotheistic religions

    2. Holy Book is Old Testament (Bible) – Ten Commandments

    3. “Babylonian Exile” – why do bad things happen to good people? Growing belief in a messiah (savior) who would spread god’s word

  9. Christianity – founded in Middle East

    1. Comes from Judaism – Jesus Christ was a Jew

    2. Monotheistic

    3. Christians believe Christ was the messiah and son of god

    4. Salvation (afterlife) through belief in Christ

    5. Holy Books are New Testament and Old Testament

    6. Spreads at first by missionary activity, later through association with Roman Emperors (Constantine)

    7. Splits in 1053 into Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity

    8. Roman Catholicism splits in 15th century: Protestant Reformation

  10. Islam – founded in Middle East

    1. Founder is Muhammad; believed to be the last prophet

    2. Holy Book is Qu’ran; written in Arabic; not supposed to be translated

    3. Recognizes Christ as a prophet, but not a god; tolerant toward Christians and Jews, who are “People of the (Holy) Book”

    4. Salvation by following the Five Pillars of Islam:

      1. Belief in god (Allah)

      2. Prayer

      3. Charity (Alms)

      4. Fasting during holy month of Ramadan

      5. Pilgrimage to holy city of Mecca

    5. Sunni-Shia split

      1. Due to dispute over succession as caliph

      2. Today, must Iranians and Iraqis are Shi’as; most other Muslims are Sunnis

  11. Gender Relations in Organized Religion

    1. Tends to follow status of women in the society – generally considers them secondary, lesser

    2. Look for stories about creation, creator gods – are they all male?

  12. Know the characteristics of Universal Religions

  13. Understand the symbiosis between religions and governments



What You Need to Know About Classical Civilizations – Greece, Rome, India, China





  1. Different Forms of Government

    1. Monarchy: ruled by a King or Emperor

    2. Aristocracy: ruled by Nobles

    3. Oligarchy: ruled by a small group of citizens

    4. Republic: all citizens choose representatives to make decisions

    5. Democracy: all citizens make all decisions

    6. Theocracy: ruled by priests or religious authorities

  2. Persia (600 – 300 BCE) first great empire

    1. Ruled over many different peoples and cultures; practiced tolerance

    2. Used local rulers and elites but also developed a bureaucracy that reported directly to king

    3. Royal Road system: precursor of Roman and Chinese transportation systems – moves goods and army

  3. Greece (500 – 300 BCE)

    1. Significance of geography:

      1. Separate city-states (polis) due to mountainous geography

        1. Each polis was defended by its own members, who gained rights as a result (“citizenship”)

      2. Access to sea, many harbors, encouraged sea trade and colonization around the Mediterranean

    2. Persian Wars – Greeks hold off conquering Persians; results in formation of the Delain League

    3. Athens:

      1. Democracy, but not for women or slaves – only males born in Athens were citizens

      2. Led by Pericles during its “Golden Age” – a time of great art, culture and science

      3. Famous philosophers – Socrates, Plato, Aristotle

      4. Fights Peloponnesian War with Sparta

    4. Sparta:

      1. Oligarchy with many serfs (helots) who were not citizens

      2. Very militarist – all citizens received military training

    5. Hellenistic Age

      1. Alexander the Great unites Greece, conquers Persia, Egypt, Northern India

      2. sharing of many cultures;

      3. development of trade across much of western and central Asia; eventually becomes the Silk Road

  4. Rome

    1. Republic (approx 500 BCE – 0)

      1. Plebians – commoners, but stil citizens if they owned land

      2. Patricians – wealthy aristocrats; controlled Roman Senate

      3. After Punic Wars, gap between rich and poor widened and the numbers of Roman citizens fell

      4. Rise of “great men” who control their own armies puts Republic at risk

    2. Empire (approx 0-500 CE)

      1. First Emperor: Augustus

      2. Pax Romana” – Roman peace – time of prosperity, peace, trade throughout Empire

      3. Road system and access to Mediterranean Sea allow for easy movement of trade goods, military

      4. Constantine (314) becomes a Christian; supports Christianity

    3. Body of laws: The Twelve Tables

      1. Applied to all citizens

      2. Innocent until proven guilty; right to face accuser

      3. Compare with other ancient bodies of law: Hammurabi’s Code, 10 Commandments, Justinian’s Code

  5. Indian Subcontinenet

    1. Maurya Empire (300-100 BCE) – ruled over most of subcontinent

      1. Greatest Emperor was Ashoka – spread Buddhism

    2. India -- Gupta Empire (300-500 CE) – ruled over most of northern subcontinent

      1. a “Golden Age” of culture and science

      2. invented “zero”; learned to crystalize sugar

  6. Classical China

    1. Period of Warring States; competing philosophies of ruling states – Legalism, Daoism, Confucianism

      1. Legalism – harsh punishment for crimes

      2. Daoism: “the Way”; sought harmony between people and nature; the best government rules least

      3. Confucianism: “superior” virtuous men should rule

    2. Qin Dynasty unites China under ideas of Legalism

    3. Han Dynasty

      1. Development of extensive bureaucracy

      2. Confucian “Merit System” to choose government officials

      3. Invention of paper

  7. Similarities Between Han China and Roman Empire

    1. Both empires are a time of prosperity, trade networks

    2. Both fall because of barbarian invasions and internal problems as peasants lose land and tax revenues shrink

  8. Interaction between cultures – cultural diffusion

    1. Silk Road first develops: from China to India to Mediterranean – ideas and culture (religion), inventions (paper), trade goods

    2. Indian Ocean trade network connects China to India to Middle East to Africa

  9. Social Structure in the Classical Era

    1. Class structure very similar to Ancient Civs

      1. Look for disputes between kings and landholding aristocrats as a marker of strength of empires

      2. Look for status of agricultural workers – do they own their own land, or do they work for big landholders – as a marker of strength of empires

      3. Relative decline in the importance of religious officials; they tend to come under the control of the governments. Exception: the Pope, in Rome, due to weak states in western Europe

    2. Almost everywhere, high status was based on control of land and production, but there were some differences in class status:

      1. In Greece and Rome, based on citizenship and wealth

      2. In India, based on caste

      3. In China, based on government position

    3. Gender relations similar to Ancient Civs

      1. If anything, worse for women, as customs became more entrenched

      2. In places where many women were widows because of war (Rome) or virtual widows (Sparta) women had more control over estates, status

      3. Women had some ability to remove themselves from male society in later Christendom and Buddhism (female religious orders)


What You Need to Know About the dar al-Islam, West Africa, the Byzantines and the Russians





  1. The Byzantine Empire (400 – 1453)

    1. Created from the Eastern half of the Roman Empire

    2. Preserved Greek and Roman culture

    3. Caesaropapism – control by the state over the religious officials

    4. Constantinople was capital and great trading city between Europe, Asia

    5. Justinian’s Code: the Empire’s law code: Rome’s Twelve Tables re-written as a complete body of laws – often paired with Hammurabi’s Code, 10 Commandments, Twelve Tables

    6. Eastern Orthodox Christianity splits with Roman Catholicism; two different branches of Christianity

    7. Conquered by Ottomans (1453)

  2. Byzantines influence Russia (1000 –

    1. Vikings migrate into Russia, intermarry with native (Neolithic) Rus, create first states

    2. Increasing trade and cultural contact with Byzantine Empire

    3. Byzantines convert Russians to Eastern Orthodox Christianity

    4. Byzantines encourage Russian “Czarism” – like all-powerful Byzantine emperors

  3. Expansion of the dar al-Islam (The House of Islam)

    1. Begun by Muhammad, founder of Islam

    2. Expansion by conquest (esp. during Umayyad Dynasty, 650-750); then by conversion

    3. Baghdad was capital of Abbasid Dynasty (750 – 1200) and great trading city

    4. Like Byzantine, close connection between the state and the religion through the caliphs

    5. Influence of Islam spreads far wider than political control of caliphate

    6. Ibn Battuta travels throughout Islamic lands – from West and East Africa to Central Asia, to India to Southeast Asia to China

    7. Great advances in mathematics, medicine, astronomy

    8. Connection with Eastern Africa creates “Swahili” a mixture of Arabic and Bantu language, culture, people

    9. Developed trade throughout the “Indian Ocean world” – Arabic was the language of trade

  4. Islam influences West African empires – Ghana, Mali, Songhay

    1. Connection with the Islamic world by trans-Sahara (desert) trade routes – kings convert to Islam

    2. Gold and slaves-for-salt and luxuries trade

    3. Mali – greatest ruler was Mansa Musa – pilgrimage to Mecca

    4. Timbuktu was great trading and intellectual center



Useful Comparisons

Law codes: Hammurabi, Ten Commandments, Twelve Tables (Roman), Justinian’s Code (Byzantine)

Religious Codes: Five Pillars (Islam), Ten Commandments (Judaism), Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path (Buddhism)

Monotheistic Religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam


Social Science Knowledge
Anthropology – the study of human societies through observation of culture

Archeology – the syudy of human societies through artifacts

Geography – the study of how human society is shaped by climate, access to resources, physical features
Important Geographical Knowledge

Monsoons – seasonal rains throughout Indian Ocean area, including Southern China and Eastern Africa

Monsoon winds – blow north in summer, south in winter; aided sailing boats crossing the Indian Ocean

Rome was a “Mediterranean Empire,” not a European one



Indian subcontinent geography tends toward disunity

Isolation of the Americas


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