Sunday, March 29, 2015

Early Humans and Civilizations

           The theory of evolution supported by an enormous body of evidence forces as to draw far reaching conclusions. Every living species evolved from a common ancestor. Modern humans evolved from the early men that lived in Africa. Archaeologists say that early man evolved from Africa and migrated to other habitable continents over the years. They migrated for several reasons such as: lack of food, wars, and slavery. Over the years environmental factors such as extreme cold weather and very warm weather influenced the physical features of humans. Thus some people are white and others are black. No matter how diverse their culture may seem, all human communities are directly related to each other, other species and the earth. The way and manner in which one thrives today is very different from how one’s ancestors lived. Over the past years, historians and scientists have studied human kind to prove and document early civilization. Three important eras of early civilization are the Paleolithic Age, the Neolithic Civilization and the River Valley Civilizations. [1]The Stone Age is a prehistoric cultural stage, or level of human development, characterized by the creation and use of stone tools. The Stone Age is usually divided into three separate periods--Paleolithic Period, Mesolithic Period, and Neolithic Period--based on the degree of sophistication in the fashioning and use of tools.
            During the Paleolithic Age (2 million B.C to 10000 B.C) people lived in smaller groups due to the limited amount of food supply. Throughout the Paleolithic, man was a food gatherer, depending for his subsistence on hunting wild animals and birds, fishing, and collecting wild fruits, nuts, and berries. The men hunted for food whilst the women gathered fruits and berried. Due to the fact that they all lived a nomadic lifestyle, they was greater equality among themselves. It didn't matter if one was male or female, child or adult. One interesting development in this era was “Animism”. It can be defined or described as the belief or idea that everything in nature has a spirit. One may ask that does this mean that the rain, stones, rocks, and trees all have spirits? Yes, the people of the Paleolithic Age believed that all things in nature had spirits. Animism is therefore considered as the earliest form of religion. Also, the Paleolithic Age is divided into three groups: Lower Paleolithic, Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic. The lower Paleolithic people have been identified as Homo habilisí. They were the people who developed the earliest stone tools. Those stone tools were known as choppers. Some historians call that period as Chopperí period. They manufactured those stone tools by using pebbles or pieces of rocks. [2]The lower Paleolithic people survived on wild plants, fruits and collected meats. Burned rocks discovered during the excavations suggest that people in that period learned the use of fire at a later stage. Circles of stones, which may have served as seats, spaced around the fire suggest that the glowing embers provided a center for family gatherings (Schick). The earliest evidence of the people of the lower Paleolithic communities was found in Europe. [3]The Middle Paleolithic period began about 200,000 years ago. People in that period are known as called as Neanderthals. They used improved version of stone tools for hunting and self-defense purpose. The traces of these people were first discovered in France. There were some evidences of rituals among the Neanderthals. The Upper Paleolithic period extended from about 35,000 to between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago. [4]The Upper Paleolithic people lived in parts of Asia, Europe and Africa. They were more advanced than the people in the previous eras. They had knowledge about the art and infrastructure. It became clear from the discoveries that they used to construct temporary dwellings using branches and animal skin. The creative skills of the people in that period are proven from the discovery of metal tools, pendants, necklaces and bracelets of shells, bone and ivory. They expressed their love for the nature through body art and painting on the rocks. They worshipped mother goddess and believed in rituals.
            History witnessed its first major change between the years of 12000 B.C to 10000 B.C. This epic change is known as the Neolithic Revolution. During this age, agriculture (farming) emerged. The Neolithic Revolution was a fundamental change in the way people lived. The shift from hunting & gathering to agriculture led to permanent settlements, the establishment of social classes, and the eventual rise of civilizations. The Neolithic Revolution is a major turning point in human history. Neolithic villages continued to divide work between men and women.  However, women's status declined as men took the lead in in most areas of these early societies.  Villages were usually run by a Council of Elders composed of the heads of the village's various families.  [5]Some of these villages may have had a chief elder as a single leader. When resources became scarce, warfare among villages increased.  During war, some men gained stature as great warriors.  This usually transferred over to village life with these warriors becoming the leaders in society. Early social class divisions developed as a result.  A person's social class was usually determined by the work they did, such as farmer, craftsman, priest, and warrior.  [6]Depending on the society, priests and warriors were usually at the top, with farmers and craftsman at the bottom. New technologies developed in response to the need for better tools and weapons to go along with the new way of living.  Neolithic farmers created a simple calendar to keep track of planting and harvesting.  They also developed simple metal tools such as plows, to help with their work.  Some groups even may have used animals to pull these plows, again making work easier.  Metal weapons were developed as villages needed to protect their valuable resources. The food and waste generated from the farms acted as baits for animals. Hence, the domestication of animals such as dogs and sheep during the Neolithic Revolution.
            In addition, the key to farming is irrigation: one needs fresh water to nourish the plants. Because of this, the Neolithic Revolution’s agriculture led to the rise of what historians call “River Valley Civilizations”. According to EARTH AND ITS PEOPLE, a civilization is a complex society with eight basic features. These features include cities, writing, centralized government, social classes, religion, job specialization, public works, and art and architecture. [7]Approximately 5000 years ago the first complex, politically centralized civilizations began to crystallize independently along a number of river valleys throughout the southern half of Asia and northern Africa. Why did the first complex, politically centralized civilizations materialize along rivers?  Because rivers supplied a continuous and dependable flow of water for farming and human consumption.  These rivers along with climate, vegetation, geography, and topography shaped the development of the early river valley civilizations.  However, while people of these civilizations were dependent on the rivers, the rivers also inspired new technological, economic, institutional, and organizational innovations and developments. Between 3000 and 2000 B.C.E. such river valley civilizations formed independently of each other along the Indus, the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, and the Yellow Rivers. [8]The Nile River was the axis of two early African civilizations, Egypt and Nubia.  The Nile River shaped the development of both civilizations, providing a reliable source of water for farming and linking them to sub-Saharan Africa and the Mediterranean Sea.  The Nile gave them limited access to various Bantu peoples to the south and various Mediterranean peoples to the north.  Although both civilizations crystallized along the Nile, they developed along different lines.  Egypt unified politically earlier and more effectively than Nubia.  The ruler-conqueror first united Egypt about 3100 B.C.E.  Subsequently, the institution of the pharaoh as deified ruler developed during a period known as the Archaic Period (3100-2660 B.C.E.). Ancient Egyptian history is chronologically divided by dynasty and “kingdom”.  The three principle periods are the Old Kingdom (2660-2160 B.C.E.), the Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 B.C.E.), and the New Kingdom (1550-1070 B.C.E.).  In a number of ways the Old Kingdom is considered the classic era in ancient Egyptian history.  This period is marked by the power and influence of the pharaoh being at its height, as manifest in the construction of massive pyramids for burial of the pharaohs.  While pyramids were constructed during all three kingdom periods, Egyptians built the largest pyramids for their pharaohs during the Old Kingdom.  Of course, these massive monuments have come to define ancient Egypt in popular culture.  Arguably the most famous pyramids were constructed between 2600 and 2500 B.C.E. at Giza, two of the best known being the Great Pyramid of the ruler Khufu and the Great Sphinx.
            [9]Mesopotamia is a Greek word that means “land between the rivers”, referring to the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers.  These two rivers were the axes of one of the most influential ancient civilizations in history.  With the development of irrigation around 6000 B.C.E. farming villages appeared and grew into larger communities and then cities along these rivers. Political centralization first occurred in Mesopotamia in much the same way that it took place along the Nile River.  From approximately 3200 to 2350 B.C.E. various Sumerian cities dominated Mesopotamia.  During this period these cities, ruled by monarchs, came to control surrounding economic hinterlands, and, in the process, evolved into city-states.  These city-states were rivals who vied for influence throughout, even dominance of Mesopotamia.  In the twenty-fourth century B.C.E. Sargon, the ruler of the city of Akkad, became the first man to unify Mesopotamia under his control.  From 2350 to 1600 B.C.E. Mesopotamia was dominated by Babylon, a city that straddled the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Mesopotamia left a number of important cultural legacies for Western civilization.  Mesopotamia culture was a synthesis of both Sumerian and Semitic forms.  One of these legacies was various legal codes developed by a succession of Mesopotamian rulers.  Most notably among these rulers was Hammurabi (r. 1792-1750 B.C.E.), a Babylonian ruler who had various legal codes, guidelines, and precedents compiled.  This compilation was part of his larger effort to standardize the administration of his kingdom.  Another legacy was the Epic of Gilgamesh, a collection of stories about ancient Mesopotamia which centered around a legendary king of Uruk, who was part god.  These stories became one of the models for later heroic epics which celebrated the exploits of rulers and their champions.
            [10]From roughly 3000 to 1500 B.C.E. a complex, urbanized civilization existed along the Indus River in what is today northern India.  This ancient Indus River valley civilization was dominated by several large cities, including Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, and today is known by the name of the former.  The people of this civilization were known as Dravidians. For a number of different reasons historians don’t know as much about Harappan civilization as we do about its counterparts along the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, and the Yellow Rivers.  Unlike these other civilizations the language of ancient Harappan civilization cannot be deciphered. These civilizations laid the foundations for political centralization and organization upon which nearly all subsequent civilizations are built.  They also provided many of the roots of human civilization all the way to the present including the practices of monument building, written articulation of legal codes, and the construction of the legal and political infrastructures necessary to run a central government of a state.  If one were transported back in time to one of these early civilizations, one would find much that was familiar.
            The evolution of human and human history is very complex. It is full and surprises. Though the historians and researchers have made their conclusions based on the discoveries and excavations, the complete truth about the human history still remains a mystery. Mankind has come a very long way, and still has a long a way to go. All the changes that happened thousands of years ago are very crucial. The Paleolithic age introduced religion, and language. The Neolithic Revolution introduced civilization and farming. Paleolithic people used the caves as their shelters. At a later stage, they built some temporary dwellings using branches of the trees. However, Neolithic people built houses with woods and stones. The river valley people went steps ahead and built their houses with bricks. Not only they built houses, but also they built planned cities and other establishments. Paleolithic people expressed their feelings by body art and rock paintings, while Neolithic people used both the rock paintings and wall paintings. They also used utensils in household and painted them with color. People in the Niles and the Tigris-Euphrates civilizations showed their expertise in art and architecture by building monuments and sculptures. Written scripts were developed for the first time during the river valley civilizations.

Works Cited
Bolman, Katherine P. "The Facts about Paleolithic Community." Art History Worlds. Sagar Satapathy, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.
"An Overview of the Paleolithic." An Overview of the Paleolithic. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2014.
"[Regents Prep Global History] Change & Turning Points: Neolithic Revolution." [Regents Prep Global History] Change & Turning Points: Neolithic Revolution. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.