Part I from Hunting and Gathering to Civilizations, 5 million–1000 B. C. E.: Origins

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From Hunting and Gathering to Civilizations, 2.5 million–1000 B.C.E.: Origins
Overview. The first human beings appeared in east Africa over two million years ago. Gradually humans developed a more erect stance and greater brain capacity. Early humans lived by hunting and gathering. The most advanced human species, Homo sapiens sapiens, migrated from Africa into the Middle East, then into Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Over time, they learned to fashion tools and weapons from stone, bone, and wood, and were, therefore, able to move away from hunting-and-gathering practices to form larger groups. The beginnings of agriculture, about 10,000 B.C.E., were based on improved tools during the New Stone Age (Neolithic). The development of agriculture was a radical change in humans’ way of life. By providing a dependable source of food, people could stay in one place, develop toolmaking technologies using metals, and, by increasing agricultural output, free individuals to specialize in other kinds of work. More elaborate political and cultural forms slowly emerged. Civilization emerged in five different regions. While focusing on the agricultural revolution, we must not lose sight of the many areas in which other systems prevailed. Hunting-and-gathering was not only a different economic system, it brought with it differences in gender relations, daily life, and social complexity.
Big Concepts. Each of the key phases of the long period of early human history (2.5 million B.C.E.—1000 B.C.E.) can be characterized by a central topic or Big Concept. The first of these is the development of human hunting skills, the adaptation of those skills to the shift geography and climate of the Ice Age, and the patterns of human migration. The second Big Concept is the rise of agriculture and the changes in technology associated with the Neolithic revolution (9000 B.C.E. and 4000 B.C.E.). These changes set in motion the agricultural phase of human experience that lasted until just a few centuries ago. The final Big Concept is the appearance of increasingly distinctive human societies through agriculture or nomadic pastoralism and the early contacts among these societies, particularly after 3500 B.C.E. when larger and more formally organized societies, often with early cities as well, emerged and began to develop more consistent patterns of interregional trade.
Triggers for Change. The phase of human history talked about in this chapter is mainly the story of accommodating different environments, especially in the search for food. Around 10,000 years ago, near the Black Sea, humans turned to agriculture, as hunting became less productive. The reasons for the change are not clear, but possibilities include population pressure, and shortages caused by accidental or deliberate over-hunting. Agriculture brought essential changes in social organization, tool-making, and specialization of occupation.
The Big Changes. Agriculture involved a different set of challenges and benefits than did hunting-and-gathering. The demands of farming meant a sedentary life and larger settlements. Social structures became more complex, and greater gender divisions of labor. Agriculture also made possible the key elements of civilization: states, towns, and monumental building. The first four civilizations arose in river valleys that made irrigation, and, hence, large-scale agriculture possible.
Continuity. This transition took place over millennia. Many peoples adhered to their traditional economy, which meant, as well, adherence to traditional social and cultural ways. As they took to farming, traditionally women’s work, men developed ideas of superiority over women. This can be interpreted not as innovation, but as a way to compensate for change.
Impact on Daily Life: Children. Hunting-and-gathering societies necessitated small families, because of the migratory lifestyle and limited resources. With farming, however, not only were larger families possible, they made sense. Children were an integral part of traditional agriculture. Birth rates increased enormously, although infant mortality remained high. The importance of child labor, moreover, brought with it strict control over children. A culture of parental dominance developed—totalitarian in some instances.
Chapter 1 deals with the emergence of agriculture and its impact on human life, the spread of agriculture, and the persistence of other patterns.


From Human Prehistory to the Early Civilizations



Stages of early material and social development
Technological and organizational innovations made possible by agriculture

Social, political, intellectual, artistic effects of agricultural way of life

Two main adaptations to diverse ecosystems: farming and pastoral peoples

I. Human Life in the Era of Hunters and Gatherers.

Human species

Emerged 2 to 2.5 million years ago

Spread to every landmass (except polar regions)

Drawbacks: violence, dependencies of babies, back pain, awareness of death

Advantages: opposable thumb, sexual drive, omnivorous, expressions, brains, speech

Paleolithic (Old Stone) Age accounts for two million plus years of human development

Simple tools: rocks, sticks for hunting and warfare

Fire tamed about 750,000 years ago

Homo erectus emerged between 500,000 and 750,000 years ago

A. Late Paleolithic Developments

Homo sapiens sapiens originated about 240,000 years ago

Bands of hunter gatherers, significant equality between sexes

Communication facilitated group cooperation and transmission of technical knowledge

Greatest achievement of Paleolithic people: sheer spread of species across the earth

Migrations out of eastern Africa facilitated by: scarcity, fire, animal skins for clothing

Land bridge from Siberia to Alaska facilitated migrations into Americas 30,000 years ago

Warmer climates and rising ocean levels eliminated land bridge by 8000 B.C.E.

Chinese settlers reached Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia 4500 to 3500 years ago

Mesolithic (Middle Stone) Age

From about 12,000 to 8000 B.C.E.

After end of last great ice age

Improved tool development aided transportation, housing, fishing, and food preparation

Animals domesticated

Increases in population resulted in conflict and warfare

More dramatic changes occur in Neolithic (New Stone) Age

Agriculture, cities, and other foreshadowings of civilization

II. The Neolithic Revolution

Development of agriculture: deliberate planting for later harvest

Fueled population increase from 6 to 8 million to 100,000 million people in 3000 years

Gave rise to elaborate social and cultural patterns we would recognize today

Conditions for agricultural development

Retreat of last great ice age

Climate conducive to improved food supply increases population

Population increase prompts search for new, reliable food

End of ice age replaced big animals like Mastadons with smaller game in forested areas

By 9000 B.C.E people increasingly turn to wild grains, berries, nuts

The Domestication of Plants and Animals

Plants: first by accident, slow development to seed selection and deliberate planting

Animals: (By 9000 B.C.E.) pigs, sheep, goats, cattle for meat, skins, and dairying

Early stage agricultural as well as nomadic societies

A. The Geography of Early Agriculture

Farming initiated in Middle East: arc of territory from present-day Turkey to Iraq and Israel

Began as early as 10,000 B.C.E., advanced rapidly after 8000 B.C.E.

Stimulated by fertility of region, barley and wheat, lack of forests with game

Gradual spread to other areas: parts of India, north Africa, Europe

Independent development in southeast Asia spreading to China, rice cultivation

Spread from Mediterranean coast to west Africa by 2000 B.C.E., local grains, root crops

Independent development in the Americas around 5000 B.C.E., corn cultivation

Meaning of “revolution”

Dramatic shift towards agricultural societies but not in relation to speed

Hunting and gathering persisted alongside agriculture

Took thousands of years to develop and thousands more to spread

B. Patterns of Change

Term “revolution” appropriate in terms of magnitude of change

Agriculture required more regular work than hunting and gathering

Rewards of agricultural life

Support larger population

Better food supply

Settled existence with houses and villages

Domesticated animals provided not only hides but wool for more varied clothing

Agriculture gained ground

Success hard to deny

Cleared forests drove out hunters or converted them

Contagious diseases of settled peoples infected hunter-gatherers without immunities

Some hunting gathering societies persisted

Small societies in southern Africa, Australia, islands of southeast Asia, northern Japan

Isolated and unchanged until 100 years ago

Northern Europeans and south Africans converted about 2000 years ago

Central America and northern South America developed agriculture about 5000 years ago

Most of North America hunting-and-gathering, limited agriculture until recent centuries

Herding societies

Climate conducive to herding as the basic socioeconomic system of central Asia

Nomadic invaders played vital role linking civilizations until a few centuries ago

C. Further Technological Change

Agriculture basis for rapid change in human societies

Stimulated greater wealth and larger populations, stimulating specialization and innovation

Agriculture required new techniques, knowledge, and tools

Example: science to understand weather and flooding

Example: need to store grains and seeds stimulated basket-weaving and pottery

Example: First potter’s wheel (around 6000 B.C.E.) stimulated better, faster pottery production

Prehistory versus history

Despite shift to agricultural societies in Neolithic period, technically still “prehistorical”

Distinction based on concept of recordkeeping associated with writing

Distinction blurred by current use of tools and burial sites as historical records

Preagricultural—agricultural distinction more to the point

Preagricultural change marked in thousands of years

Agricultural change marked in decades and centuries

First big change: metal tools introduced in Middle East around 4000 B.C.E.

First copper, bronze soon after

By 3000 B.C.E. metal-working so common in Middle East, referred to as Bronze Age

Stone tools persisted in many parts of the world

Metal working extremely useful to agricultural and herding societies

Metal hoes improved farming

Metal weapons superior to stone or wood

Metal-working early specialization

Agriculture freed up labor, metal-working one such result

Specialization does not require innovation but does provide a climate of discovery

Knowledge of metals spread to other parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe

Manufacturing artisans as well as farmers benefited from knowledge of metals

Example: metal tools enhanced woodworking

III. Civilization

Agriculture the basis of building larger, more stable human communities

An exception: Mesolithic fishing villages along the lakes of Switzerland

Most hunting peoples moved in groups of tribes composed of 40 to 60 people

Hunting societies could not settle permanently without game running out

Some agricultural peoples remained unstable by employing the “slash and burn” method

Definition: burning an area, cultivating crops until soil is depleted, moving on

Example: People of the American South until 150 years ago

Herding peoples of central Asia, Middle East, Sudan, and elsewhere moved in tribal bands

A. Settled Societies

The major agricultural regions involved permanent settlements

Advantages: houses, wells, etc. built to last for generations

Key incentive for stability in Middle East, China, parts of Africa, India: irrigation devices to channel river water into fields

Settled villages—groupings of several hundred people—useful

Advantageous to regulate river’s flow, build and maintain irrigation ditches and sluices

Advantageous for defense

Characteristic pattern of residence from Neolithic period until our own day

Neolithic settlements spread in agricultural societies, as late as 1500 B.C.E.

Example: Çatal Hüyük

c. 7000 B.C.E., southern Turkey

Large (32 acres), lavish décor in buildings, religious images common, some trade

By 1500 B.C.E., engaged in production activities such as tools and jewelry

Political and military specializations emerged with growth of linked cities and villages

Emergence of kings with divine status

By 3000 B.C.E., Çatal Hüyük identified as civilization

Characteristics of civilization appeared as early as 6000 or 5000 B.C.E.

Origins of civilization around 3500 B.C.E. in Middle East along Tigris and Euphrates rivers

Northern Africa (Egypt) soon after

Northwestern India along Indus river around 2500 B.C.E.

These three civilizations had some interaction

Two separate civilizations developed later in China and in Central America

B. Defining Civilization

(1) Inclusive definition: enough economic surpluses to form divisions of labor and a social hierarchy involving significant inequalities

(2) Narrower definition: formal political organizations or states as opposed to family or tribes

Most civilizations characteristically produced huge kingdoms or empires

Most civilizations depend on significant cities

City a center of wealth, power, politics, ideas, art, intellectual activity, manufacture, trade

Most civilizations developed writing

First in Middle East around 3500 B.C.E., Cuneiform (writing with wedgelike characters)

Advantages: government messages, records, tax management, contracts, treaties

More elaborate political structures emerge as a result

Substantiates value of collecting data, building on the past, and gaining wisdom

Encourages notion of organized human inquiry

Broad literacy irrelevant for growth of civilizations, not common until under 200 years ago

History of civilization covers the history of most people as civilizations ruled most people

Civilized or not civilized

If defined narrowly, hunting, nomadic, and some agricultural societies not civilizations

Too few resources or stability or lack of writing and strong political organization

Long history of the civilized looking down on others

Example: Greeks called non-Greeks “barbarians”

Incorrect to view history as a divide between civilization and primitive nomads

Civilization not a synonym for “good”

Civilizations incur greater class, caste, ruler—ruled divisions, slavery, war, gender inequalities

Nomadic or hunter-gatherer people depend on word of mouth communications

Tends to promote intense social regulation, veneration of elders, less strict childrearing

Historical role of hunter-gatherers and nomads

Hunter-gatherers became increasingly isolated

Nomadic herding people flourish with aid of technologies in riding and weaponry

Nomads had major role in world trade and developing contact among settled peoples

Significance of civilizations

Technological, political, artistic, intellectual changes for large populations

Environmental impact such as deforestation, erosion, flooding due to agriculture and mining

Early river valley civilizations pilot tests of new social organizations

Consistent process of development and spread of civilization only begins about 1000 B.C.E.

C. Tigris—Euphrates Civilization

First civilization in Middle East—Mesopotamia

Developed: writing, law, trade, religion, money, elaborate architecture, city planning

By 4000 B.C.E. farmers familiar with copper, bronze, and had invented the wheel

They had a pottery industry and developed artistic forms

Irrigation required coordination of communities leading to complex political structures

By 3500 B.C.E. the Sumerians had developed the first real civilization

Achievements of the Sumerians

Alphabet and writing (cuneiform)

Astronomy, numerical system


Professional priests, rituals, shrines

Ziggurats first monumental architecture

Polytheism (gods in aspects of nature)

Patron gods, earth from water, flood story, gloomy afterlife

Legacy carried into Old Testament influencing Judaism, Christianity, Islam

Political and Social Organization
Establish boundaries

State religion



Defense, war


With kings, administer state land and slaves


Warfare ensured supply of slaves

Variable existence, slaves could purchase freedom


Agricultural prosperity

Irrigation, wheeled carts, fertilizers

Silver means of exchange, first money, facilitated trade


Region a constant temptation for invaders

Difficult to defend

Fell to Akkadians who continued Sumerian culture

Period of decline, followed by Babylonian rule


Extended own empire, bringing civilization to other parts of Middle East


Law Code establishing courts, duties, rights, punishments

Invasions persisted, fragmentation followed

Semitic peoples and languages came to dominate but continued culture of the conquered

Greatest turmoil between 1200 and 900 B.C.E., favoring smaller, regional kingdoms

After 900 B.C.E., Assyrians, then Persians, created large new empires in the Middle East

D. Egyptian Civilization

Civilization formed by 3000 B.C.E. along Nile River

Benefited from trade and technological influence of Mesopotamia

Very different society and culture then Mesopotamia

Less open to invasion

Unified state for most of its history

Economy more government-directed, smaller business class


Pharaoh, powerful king, intermediary between gods and men

Pharaohs built pyramids (splendid tombs) for themselves from 2700 B.C.E. onward


Despite some disruptions, Egyptian civilization basically intact until after 1000 B.C.E.

Spread into Sudan, impact on later African culture

Interaction with African kingdom of Kush

Comparative achievements with Mesopotamia

Science and alphabet less developed

Math more advanced and influential

Art lively, colorful; architecture influential

Concept of afterlife more pleasant

E. Indian and Chinese River Valley Civilizations

Civilization formed by 2500 B.C.E. along Indus River

Large cities: Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, buildings had running water

Traded with Mesopotamia

Developed own alphabet and artistic forms

Invasions by Indo-Europeans and natural calamities destroyed much

Harappa writing still not deciphered

Not enough evidence to claim much about culture or influence on subsequent Indian culture

Indo-European migrants combined early Indian culture with their own

F. The Great Cities of the Indus Valley

Hundreds of miles apart but very similar layout and construction

Precise grid pattern, walled city and buildings of kiln-dried bricks

Inference: considerable coordination of labor power required

Large, well-fortified citadels

Inference: strong ruling class

Citadels possibly sanctuaries when attacked and community centers in peacetime

Structures appear to have included assembly halls, places of worship, and public baths

Citadel at Mohenjo Daro appears to have had a cloister housing priests nearby

Citadels had granaries nearby

Inference: ceremonial, preparation for shortages, regulation of grain production, sale

Complex agricultural system

Irrigation inferred

Cultivation of wheat, rye, peas, cotton, possibly rice

Animals domesticated

Fish dietary staple

Trade and contact

Harappa cities major trading centers

Trade enhanced with use of riverboats and ox carts

Jade from China

Jewels from Burma

Harappa stone seals manufactured in Indus region found in Mesopotamia

Seals used by merchants to ensure crates and urns remain unopened during transport

Inference: trade highly developed

Despite contact, did not adopt superior tools, weaponry of Mesopotamian metal-workers

Inferences: conservative, resistant to change, vulnerable to invasion

Harappa representations of mother goddesses and horned god found in Sumer and

Persian Gulf

Inference: extensive trade of commodities throughout urban centers of Mesopotamia


Rule by priestly class functioning as intermediaries between populace and fertility gods

Demise of early Indus River Valley civilization

Short term disasters: flooding, earthquakes

Long-term climatic changes: shift in monsoon and temperature patterns, desertification

Urban centers abandoned

Invaders settle or take over

Evidence in changed pottery style, loss of town planning, quality of building

Inference: priestly elite lost control over artisans and laborers

Some invaders were Aryan herders

Replaced irrigation and agricultural development with cattle-raising

Economic decline followed shift away from crop cultivation

Evidence suggests violence a possible contributing factor in decline

Result possibly of flight from invaders or flooding

Three primary factors precipitating decline

Environmental changes

Related administrative decline

Nomadic migrations

G. Early Civilization in China

Developed independently along Yellow River (Huanghe), later contact with India and

Middle East.

By 2000 B.C.E., irrigation, advanced technology, science, music, intellectual life, pottery,

writing (ideographic)

By 1000 B.C.E., introduced iron and working with coal


Shang kingdom laid foundations for Chinese civilization by 1500 B.C.E.

Originally nomads, conquered Yellow River region establishing kingdom

Horseback, chariots, bronze weapons

Non-Shang subjects foot soldiers

Warfare involved amassed troops and hand-to-hand combat

Ruled by strong kings and system of vassalage to build empire

King intermediary between supreme being, Shangdi, and mortals

Kingdom viewed as center of world

Dominion all of humankind

Kings responsible for affairs of state, fertility of kingdom, well-being of subjects

Sizeable bureaucracy

System of vassalage providing land tenure, tribute, military service, administrative duties

Common people provided labor and produce

Rituals, oracles, sacrifices

Performed by rulers and nobility

Purpose: fertility, avert or appease natural disasters, good crops, large families, etc.

Sacrifices of grains, incense, wine, animals offered in elaborate cast bronze vessels

Ritual ceremonies and contests offered human sacrifice

Oracles—sacred people who could prophecy—performed by shamans

Consulted for harvests, warfare, travel, marriages, etc.

Ritual objects basis of artistic expression


Shaman interpretation of patterns on bones or tortoise shells led to inscribing on them

Standardization of designs evolved into consistent written character set

Enlarged, simplified and stylized over time

From bones and bronze, to bamboo slips, silk scrolls, wooden plates

China invented paper in the 1st century C.E.

Elaborate array of pens and inks

Writing basis of Chinese culture

Unified otherwise very diverse peoples, languages, regions into one common identity

Began with elites but filtered into artisan and cultivating classes

Directory: cms -> lib04 -> NJ01001118 -> Centricity -> Domain -> 179
179 -> Chapter 24 Industrialization and Imperialism: The Making of the European Global Order
179 -> Chapter 21 The Muslim Empires Chapter Outline Summary
179 -> Chapter 5 The Classical Period: Directions, Diversities, and Declines by 500
179 -> -
179 -> Chapter 21 Section 1 a new Kind of Revolution
179 -> Part VI the newest stage of world history: 1914–present
179 -> Absolute Monarch Facebook Project
179 -> African Civilizations and the Spread of Islam Chapter Outline Summary I. African Societies: Diversity and Similarities
179 -> Chapter 4 Classical Civilizations in the Mediterranean and Middle East Chapter Outline Summary
179 -> The Reforms of Tsar Alexander II carl Peter Watts examines a set of reforms which held out the prospect of modernising Russia but whose failure paved the way for revolution

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