Archeological studies and other scientific methods have provided us with a view of human development that begins millions of years ago. Most of the 2 million-plus years of our existence as species has been described as the Paleolithic, or Old Stone, Age. This lengthy time phase, during which both Homo erectus and then Homo sapien sapien made their appearances, ran until about 14,000 years ago. Homo erectus appeared as early as 750,000-500,000 years ago. They stood upright and learned simple tool use, mainly through employing suitably shaped rocks and sticks for hunting and gathering. Several species of Homo erectus developed and spread in Africa and to Asia and Europe, reaching a population size of perhaps 1.5 million 100,000 years ago. Homo erectus disappeared about 40,000 years ago. Our immediate ancestors were Homo sapiens sapiens. All current races are descended from this subspecies. Early varieties of Homo sapiens sapiens lived as small bands of hunter-gatherers.
1. Neolithic Revolution (8-13)
The Neolithic Revolution is the term that has been given to the development of agricultural societies. This revolution in economic, political, and social organization began in the Middle East as early as 10,000 B.C.E. and gradually spread to other centers, including parts of India, North Africa and Europe. With the rise of agricultural forms of economic production, humans were able to remain settled more permanently in one spot and increase their levels of specialization regarding particular economic, political, and religious functions. Additionally, the emergence of agriculturally based societies caused a massive increase in the sheer number of people in the world. However, agriculture as an economic system was not embraced by every society. Most evidence suggests that gathering and hunting peoples resisted agriculture as long as they could. It is not that hard to imagine that many would have found the new life too complicated, too difficult, or too exciting.
A. Ice Age
The end of the ice age saw both the retreat of some big game animals and increases in human populations, stemming from improved climate. For these two reasons people were prompted to look for new and more reliable sources of food. There is evidence that by 9000 B.C.E., in certain parts of the world, people were becoming increasingly dependent on regular harvests of wild grains, berries, and nuts. This undoubtedly set the stage for the probably accidental discovery of the deliberate planting of seeds and the improvement of key grains through selection of seeds from the best plants.
B. Metalworking: Agricultural Technology
By about 3000 B.C.E., metalworking had become common in the Middle East. Like agriculture, knowledge of metals gradually fanned out to other parts of Asia and to Africa and Europe. Metalworking was extremely useful to agricultural and herding societies. It allowed for the crafting of more efficient farming tools and better weaponry. However, the production of metal instruments was not a popular undertaking. Agricultural peoples had the resources to free up only a small number of metal toolmakers who would specialize in this activity and exchange their product with farmers for food. Specialization of this sort did not guarantee rapid rates of invention; indeed, many specialized artisans seemed very conservative, eager to preserve methods that they had inherited.
2. Civilization (13-16)
The word civilization itself comes from the Latin term for city. Formal states, writing, cities, and monuments all characterize civilizations. Civilizations also exhibit elaborate trading patterns and extensive political terrorizes. While many of the ingredients of civilization had existed by 6000 or 5000 B.C.E., the origins of civilization strictly speaking date to only about 3500 B.C.E.
3. River-Valley Civilizations
The first civilizations were labeled the river-valley civilizations. This was because they all developed alongside