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Section 1.2: Prehistory
Transcript of Section 1.2: Prehistory
Stone Age: Hunting and Gathering
The Evolution of Agriculture
Tanzania, Africa. The year was 1976, two archaeologists were studying the origins of human life when they stumbled upon a group of footprints.
These footprints were not just made by anyone - they belonged to some of our ancient ancestors
And by ancestors we mean 3.5 million year old ancestors
This was before humans even looked like humans - we were known as hominids and we looked like this...
Earliest Human Culture
The search for our beginnings takes us through the Stone Age - the broad prehistoric period in which stone was the primary source of tools and weapons
It all began 2.5 million years ago - scientists have found stone tools and even bones that show cuts and gouges from the use of stone tools and weapons
The entire Stone Age is split into three periods - Old, Middle, and New
The Old Stone Age is also when early humans found the use of fire
As plants began to flourish 1.5 million years ago, they gave off more oxygen
What is the one thing that you must have in order to create fire?
This excess gas led to more frequent wild fires and the ability for humans to tame this energy source
With fire, humans were able to cook food, protect themselves from predators, and manage their own landscape
This also led to movement - because early humans could now create their own heat, they could move to colder climates and still survive
Some people took a different route to survive
These groups became Pastoral Nomads - people who travel from place to place raising livestock
These people moved around to keep their animals alive - which, in turn, kept them alive
Once again, there are several groups that still exist today as pastoral nomads - the Bedouins from modern day Iraq and Syria
In most farming societies, people followed traditional gender roles - women planted and harvested while men hunted
Farming around the World
Obviously, some areas of the globe are more fertile - rich in nutrients that support plant life - than others
People evolved their ways of farming to exist alongside the change of seasons and dry or rainy times
For example: 9000 years ago, people in China realized they had the perfect climate for growing rice
Another example: Ancient peoples in Central America realized they could grow corn beans and squash extremely well
Though we still have the same plants as those ancient people, they looked much different in the past
Originally, people took seeds from the healthiest, best tasting plants to grow more
This is the process of domestication - adapting wild plants for use by humans
Over thousands of years, we created highly efficient ways to grow food for our ever-growing population
Just as humans began to adapt plant life to fit their needs, animals became equally as important
The first animals ever domesticated were dogs
Shortly after, humans found the benefits of larger animals such as sheep, goats, cows, and pigs
By 2500 BCE, pack animals - animals used to carry heavy loads - like camels, horses, and donkeys were trained
How did we Begin?
New Stone Age
So how did something 3.5 million years old get preserved so well?
When a local volcano - Sadiman - erupted, it threw ash and debris into the the surrounding area
As the ash was hitting the ground, it began to rain creating a thick, cement-like mud on the ground - when our ancestors walked through it, it created footprints frozen in time!
Scientists have found that the footprints are very similar to present day humans which suggests that what we thought we knew...is much different from reality.
The Old Stone Age
Things start very simply around 2.5 million years ago
Stone tools and weapons originally were just chunks or flakes of rock that had sharp edges for cutting.
Around 1.7 million years ago early humans started created symmetrical shapes with multiple cutting surfaces
By the time the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) ends, archaeologists have found that hominids began creating personal ornaments, cave paintings/carvings, and much more complex items
These later tools included hand axes, cores (for striking and grinding), and hammer stones
And although this is the Stone Age, paleo man did not only use stone...
The Neolithic or New Stone age begins when the last Ice Age ends, around 10,000 BCE
This is also the same time that agriculture - the process of changing soil so that crops can be grown; farming - begins
Farming begins in SouthWEST Asia, and was very simple at first
People realized that if they planted certain crops in certain places they would grow much better - it was a gradual process
In certain places on the Earth, the New Stone Age did not exist until after the year 1900 CE!
Movement is Life
After humans created more sophisticated tools and tamed fire, it was time for them to find new homes
Our ancestors were Nomads - people who have no permanent home; travelers
People moved to stay alive; wherever there was food to hunt or gather, that's where people went
This lifestyle eventually leads to people populating the entire globe - 500k years ago people were in Asia, by 10k years ago they were already in North America
People lived in every climate from jungles to arctic tundra, and even the highest mountains