I. PREHISTORY: THE COSMOS, EARTH, AND THE ROOTS OF HUMANITY
A. Perceptions of Cosmic Mysteries
1. Early humans sought to understand the world around them and created stories to explain their place in the universe.
2. Earliest known creation myths were recorded in Mesopotamia and mirrored in the Hebrew book of Genesis.
3. According to the Hindu myth, creation emerged from nothingness in an event akin the Big Bang.
4. The ancient Chinese believed that the creator Pan Ku shaped the universe from chaos and darkness.
B. Early Life and Evolutionary Change
1. Simple, single-celled life emerged by perhaps 3.5 billion years ago, but land-based animal life is more recent, with many species evolving and emerging between 400 and 500 million years ago.
2. Natural forces of the Earth, such as geology and climate, shape life and determine what forms of live survive.
3. Moving plates that constitute the earth’s crust move and continually reshape the planet’s surface.
4. Most natural scientists agree that living things, including humans, change and adapt to their changing environments over many generations through the process of evolution.
5. Nineteenth-century British biologist Charles Darwin explained that natural selection is the process that drives evolution, though scientists still debate the precise mechanisms of evolution.
6. Extinction of the dinosaurs led to the ascendancy of mammals, including humans.
7. Genetics confirm that humans are part of the primate order, the mammal category that includes the apes, and closely related to chimpanzees and other great apes.
8. Superior brains ultimately gave humans an evolutionary edge over other species, and human intelligence led to sophisticated technologies that allowed humans to manipulate the environment to serve their needs.
9. Fossil discoveries point to several stages and branches in early human evolution, including the development of bipedalism, or walking upright on two feet.
10. One branch of the early human family, called australopithecines, evolved into our direct ancestor about 2.5 million years ago.
11. Homo habilis had a larger brain and the ability to make and use simple stone tools.
12. Tool-making humans were more successful hunters, had a more varied diet, and traveled in larger groups, giving them a competitive edge over other species and other humans.
13. As hominid societies developed, males increasingly became the hunters or scavengers for meat, and females the gatherers of nuts and vegetables.
C. Homo Erectus and Migrations Out of Africa
1. A more advanced hominid called Homo erectus evolved in east Africa between 1.8 and 2.2 million years ago
2. Homo erectus were larger than Homo habilis and had a brain about two-thirds the size of modern humans.
3. Between one and two million years ago, some Homo erectus migrated out of Africa and eventually spread into Eurasia in the first great migration of human history.
4. Homo erectus proved to be very adaptable, surviving in a variety of diverse environments.
1. Much of the world was settled by extremely adaptable modern humans between 50,000 and 12,000 years ago.
2. Modern Humans crossed to the eastern fringe of Asia, reaching India and Southeast Asia 40,000 to 50,000 years ago.
3. Around 200,000 years ago, a group known as Neanderthals developed, mostly in Europe, with some presence in North Africa and Central Asia.
4. Recent controversial studies suggest that some interbreeding may have occurred between Neanderthal, the related Denesovans, and modern humans.
5. There is strong evidence of a migration from Asia across a land bridge to Alaska.
6. Gradually, people of Asian ancestry settled throughout the Western Hemisphere.
II. THE ODYSSEY OF EARLY HUMAN SOCIETIES
1. The Stone Age is divided into three distinct periods, each characterized by improvements in stone tool technology.
a) The long Paleolithic ended about 15,000 years ago with the receding of glaciers from the last Ice Age.
b) The Mesolithic saw the thinning out of the vast herds of large Ice Age mammals.
c) The Neolithic began between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago in Eurasia, with the transition from hunting and gathering to simple farming.
A. Hunting, Gathering, and Cooperation
1. Small family units of 20 to 60 members subsisted on fishing, hunting, scavenging, and gathering of edible plants.
2. Edible plants gathered by women were more essential for group survival than hunting.
3. Hunting and gathering generally encouraged cooperation, which led to closer-knit communities based on kinship.
4. The mostly nomadic life of hunters and gatherers made accumulation of material possessions impractical.
5. Sharing of food and resources ensured survival for both the individual and the group.
6. Egalitarian social structures were typical in hunter-gatherer groups and provided equal access to resources, though the most resourceful members might be rewarded.
7. Group success and survival depended on all members, so women and men probably enjoyed a comparable status.
8. These societies maintain a clear sexual division of labor giving men some advantages over women, though women may have participated in group decision making.
B. Cultural Life and Violence
1. Animism, the belief that all creatures and objects have souls, and polytheism, the belief in many spirits or deities, developed to explain dreams, death, and natural phenomena.
2. Paleolithic peoples developed the belief that spirits or supernatural forces were capable of helping or harming.
3. Many hunters and gatherers had ample time for leisure activities such as , music, dance, and making beer or wine.
4. Anthropologists disagree about whether humans are inherently aggressive and warlike or peaceful and cooperative, since both patterns are common.
5. Humans may not be genetically programmed for either violence or cooperation, but instead may naturally seek self-preservation, which might call for violence or cooperation in varying circumstances.
C. The Heritage of Hunting and Gathering
1. Hunting and gathering has never completely disappeared, since environmental constraints make this lifestyle the most realistic strategy for survival.
2. Remaining hunters and gatherers may reveal something about ancient civilizations, though generalizing from contemporary patterns to peoples who lived several millennia ago requires caution.
3. Hunting and gathering societies may disappear during the twenty-first century because of logging, commercial fishing, plantation development, dam-building, tourism, and other activities that exploit their environments.
III. THE AGRICULTURAL TRANSFORMATION, 10,000–4000 b.c.e.
A. Environmental Change and the Roots of Agriculture
1. Between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago, agriculture started with small preliminary steps shaped by environmental and demographic changes that eventually led to permanent village life.
2. Climate change and population growth probably triggered a change between human societies and their environments that made settled agriculture possible and necessary.
3. By 10,000 b.c.e., the population of some regions grew to levels unsupportable by hunting and gathering.
B. The Great Transition to Settled Agriculture
1. Environmental changes forced many human groups to develop new food gathering strategies that eventually led to horticulture, or growing crops with simple tools, leading to a reorganization of human society.
2. The extensive horticultural knowledge acquired by women probably assisted the first steps toward domesticating plants.
3. Shifting cultivation, sometimes called “slash and burn,” was a major food-producing strategy in the spread of agriculture.
4. Domestication of plants and animals produced a much higher yield per acre, supporting much denser populations in the same area.
5. Permanent settlements also made possible the storage of food for future use.
6. Settled agriculture also brought new problems.
a) Farmers depended on fewer plant foods than hunter-gathers, making them vulnerable to natural disasters.