Chapter One: Nature, Humanity, & History, to 3500 BCE

Chapter One: Nature, Humanity,
& History, to 3500 BCE
African Genesis: Interpreting the
Australopithecus africanus
•First pre-human ancestors
discovered•Initially rejected because of small
•Opinion changed when new
evidence showed it hadmany features
intermediate between apes &
• In 1859, Charles Darwin
published On the Origin of
Species-species evolve by
natural selection
• African origins suggested by
discovery of Australopithecus
africanus in 1924- confirmed
by work of the Leakeys in E.
Africa beginning in 1950
• Archaeological evidence,
understanding evolution of
other species & tracing human
genetic code backwards has
helped scientists track
evolution of human beings
over 5 million years
Human Evolution
Australopithecines & modern humans are
hominids- members of primate family
Distinguished from other primates by three
characteristics: bipedalism, large brain & larynx
low in neck
Hominids gained advantages during climate
More climate changes2 -3 million years ago caused
evolution of Homo habilis- brain 50 % larger
By 1 million years ago, Homo habilis & all
australopithecines were extinct
Replaced by Homo erectus (1.7 million years ago) &
then Homo sapiens (400,000 to 100,000 years ago)
Genetic evidence suggests further development
emerged around 50,000 years ago (capacity for
Migrations from Africa
Low sea levels associated with Ice Age allowed Homo erectus & Homo sapiens to
migrate from Africa to Europe & Asia
Homo sapiens migrated from Africa (40,000 years ago) & crossed land bridge to
Americas during last glacial period (32,000–13,000 years ago)
Low sea levels allowed Homo sapiens to reach Japan & New Guinea/Australia
Minor physical evolutionary changes (skin color)
Humans adapted to new environments through process of technological adaptation
Ice Age:
Food Gathering & Stone Tools
Stone Age (2 million - 4,000 years ago)
Paleolithic (Old Stone Age—to 10,000 years
Neolithic (New Stone Age)
Paleolithic - characterized by production of
stone tools used to scavenge meat from
dead animals & hunt
Homo sapiens very good hunters –probably
caused extinction of mastodons &
mammoths about 11,000 years ago
Stone Age people foraged vegetable foods
more than meat
Human use of fire traced to 1.5 million years
ago-conclusive evidence of cooking (clay
pots) only found 12,500 years ago
Gender Roles & Social Life
• Slow maturation rate of
human infants & ability
of adults to mate any
time are thought to be
causes of development
of two-parent family
(characteristic of
• Women gathered food,
cooked, child-care
• Men mainly hunted
• Hunter-gatherers lived
in small groupsmigrated regularly to
follow game animals &
to take advantage of
seasonal variations in
ripening of foraged
Hearths & Cultural Expressions
Migrating hunter-gatherers
lived in camps; used natural
or temporary shelters
Permanent fishing
communities made more
solid structures
Clothing of animal skins
sewn together w/ vegetable
fiber & rawhide cords
Hunter-gatherers spent 3-5
hrs a day on food, clothing &
shelter- left time for cultural
activities like gathering,
organizing, passing on
information, art & religion
Cave art suggests Ice Age
people had complex religion
Burial sites indicate belief in
Domestication of
Plants & Animals
Occurred independently worldwide at different rates--Caused by climate change
Transition occurred first in Middle East, but also Eastern Sahara, Nile Valley, Greece, Central Europe
Early farmers practiced swidden agriculture, changed fields when fertility declined
Environments dictated choice of crops.
Mediterranean = Wheat & barley
Sub-Saharan Africa = Sorghum, millet
-South & SE Asia = Rice
-Equatorial W. Africa = Yams
-Americas = Maize, potatoes, quinoa, manioc
Domesticated Animals & Pastoralism
Domestication of animals
proceeded at same time as plants
Hunters first domesticated dogs;
sheep & goats were later
domesticated for meat, milk, wool
Animals pulled plows; supplied
manure for fertilizer
Two exceptions to pattern of
– Americas: no animals suitable for
domestication except llamas, guinea
pigs, & some fowl; hunting remained
main source of meat; humans main
source of labor power
– Arid parts of Central Asia & Africa:
environment not appropriate for
settled agriculture; pastoralists
herded cattle or other animals from
one grazing area to another
Agriculture & Ecological Crisis
• Humans transitioned to
agricultural or pastoralist
economies because global
warming (6000-2000
B.C.E.) brought
environmental changesreduced game & wild
• Agricultural revolution
increased world’s human
population—from 10
million in 5000 B.C.E. to
between 50 - 100 million
in 1000 B.C.E.
Life in Neolithic Communities:
Cultural Expressions
Early food producers worshiped
ancestral & nature spirits
centered on sacred groves,
springs, wild animals; deities
such as Earth Mother & Sky God
Early societies used megaliths
(big stones) to construct burial
chambers & calendar circles to
aid astronomical observations
Expansion of food-producing
societies reflected in patterns of
language groups dispersed
around Eastern Hemisphere;
Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, &
Early Towns & Specialists
• Most people lived in villages,
but in some places, the
environment supported the
growth of towns in which one
finds more elaborate
dwellings, facilities for surplus
food storage, & communities
of specialized craftspeople
• Two best-known examples of
Neolithic towns are:
– Jericho- on west bank of Jordan
River; walled w/mud-brick
structures; dates back to 8000
– Çatal Hüyük- central Turkey,
dates to 7000–5000 B.C.E.
Catal Huyuk
• Center for obsidian trade;
craftspeople produced
pottery, baskets, woolen
cloth, beads, leather &
wood products
• No evidence of dominant
class or centralized political
• Art reflects fascination with
hunting, but agriculture
was mainstay of economy
• Flourishing religion that
involved offerings of food;
may have centered on
worship of goddess &
administered by priestesses
• Remains include decorative,
ceremonial objects made of
copper, lead, silver, gold;
tools/weapons continued
to be made from stone
What is significance of Jericho & Catal Huyuk?
• Emerging social organization; food producers
supported nonproducing specialists; priests &
• Labor mobilized for nonproductive projects;
defensive walls, megalithic structures & tombs
• Don’t know if labor was free or coerced
• Humans are descended from hominids that evolved in Africa about 7
million years ago. Modern human beings are descended from communities
that evolved in Africa 50,000 years ago
• Humans began developing a variety of tools more than 2 million years ago
from stone, bone, skin, wood, and plant fiber. Though primarily vegetarian,
Paleolithic people also used weapons to hunt. They developed a sexual
division of labor and became knowledgeable about the natural world that
provided them with clothing and medicine.
• Climate change drove early human communities to abandon hunting and
gathering and develop agriculture and pastoralism, which consequently
increased the global human population from 2 to 10 million in less than
10,000 years.
• Prosperity of the settled life during the Neolithic period led to the first
towns, trade, and specialization. Archaeology reveals that humans
developed forms of religion to recognize the cycles of death and rebirth.
Discussion Questions
How did the physical and cultural characteristics of hominids
change over time, and how do scientists document and explain
these changes?
How have changes in the environment influenced the physical
development of the human species?
What is culture? Do environmental conditions and changes in the
techniques of production have an effect on culture? If so, how?
What effects did the agricultural revolutions have on Neolithic
What were women’s roles in the first 4 million years of human
history? What evidence can we find that might give us some
indications of what women’s roles may have been? Does the
evidence indicate how women’s roles may have changed over
time? How and why might such change have occurred?
Civilization Emerges
Cities: As farmers settled in fertile river valleys, they began to
grow surplus or extra food. This extra food increased the
population of the settlements. In time, the settlements grew
into cities, such as Ur in Sumer or Babylon in Mesopotamia.
Organized Central Governments: As cities developed and
expanded, the food supply and irrigation systems needed to be
maintained. Governments, such as councils or religious leaders,
began to oversee the business and existence of the cities.
Complex Religions: Religious leaders would conduct elaborate
ceremonies to appease the gods (polytheism)and insure a
bountiful harvest. Floods and droughts were blamed on the
gods’ anger so rituals were conducted in the temples.
Job Specialization: As civilizations became more complex,
artisans and craftsmen were needed to maintain specific items
and tasks. No longer could individuals do all the work. Now
some concentrated on teaching, scribing, stonecutting, etc.
Social Classes: As jobs became specialized so did the status
& needs of certain individuals. The need for a knowledgeable &
educated religious leader was more respected than unskilled
workers. Herders were needed & respected for providing
food, while masons were needed for building. Slave were on
lowest rung of the social ladder, warriors & kings were on top.
Writing: Records were needed to keep accounts on
trade goods and food storage. Writing was needed because the
information became too great. In addition, one needed to
express more complex ideas such as "belief" and "social order"
where pictures and words simply would not suffice.
Art and Architecture: This expressed the beliefs and values of a
civilization. Different styles were developed and copied by
societies. Often the art was used to impress visitors and people
about the beauty and power of a king or a community
Public Works: The government would order these, although
costly, to aid and benefit the community. Such things as a wall
to protect from attack or a canal to aid in irrigation would help
insure the survival of a people.
Mesopotamia: Settled Agriculture in an Unstable
Difficult for agriculture
– little rainfall
– rivers flood at wrong time for grain
– rivers change course unpredictably
warm climate & good soil
4000 B.C.E., cattle-pulled plows to cultivate
3000 B.C.E., irrigation canals
Other crops & natural resources date palms,
vegetables, reeds , fish, & fallow land for grazing
goats and sheep
Draft animals included cattle and donkeys and,
later camels & horses
No significant wood, stone, or metal resources
Earliest people & initial creators of
Mesopotamian culture were Sumerians
2000 B.C.E., Sumerians supplanted by Semiticspeaking peoples who dominated &
intermarried with Sumerians-preserved
Sumerian culture
Standard of Ur
What elements of civilization can you see here?
What does this artifact reveal about Sumerian culture?
Mesopotamia: Cities, Kings, Trade
society of villages & cities linked by mutual
villages produced food to feed nonproducing
urban elite & craftspeople
cities provided military protection, markets, &
specialist-produced goods
City States– city & its agricultural land
– sometimes fought over resources-water &
land; other times, they cooperated in
sharing resources
– traded with one another
– mobilized human resources to open new
farmland & to build/maintain irrigation
Construction of irrigation systems required the
organization of large numbers of people for
Two centers of power: temples & palaces
Temples were landholders-priests controlled
considerable wealth
religious power predates secular power of
Mesopotamia: Cities, Kings, Trade
Secular leadership developed in third
millennium B.C.E.-“big men” (lugal), originally
military leaders, emerged as secular leaders
The Epic of Gilgamesh-example of secular
Eventually some city-states absorbed others
Akkadian state, Sargon of Akkad (Empire
Builder) around 2350 B.C.E., & Third Dynasty
of Ur (2112–2004 B.C.E.)
Hammurabi established Old Babylonian state
Code of Hammurabi provides infor about Old
Babylonian law, punishments, & society
Mesopotamian states needed resourcesobtained by territorial expansion & through
long-distance trade
Merchants originally employed by temples or
palaces; later, private merchants emerged.
Trade carried out through barter or traded
for fixed weights of precious metal or
measurements of grains
Mesopotamian Society
Religion was amalgam of Sumerian & later
Semitic beliefs & deities
deities anthropomorphic-each city had
Humans were servants of gods-complex,
specialized hereditary priesthood served
Temples were walled compounds containing
religions & functional buildings
Most visible part of temple compound was
Little knowledge of beliefs & religious
practices of common people
Evidence indicates a popular belief in magic
& use of magic to influence gods
Mesopotamian Technology & Science
Technology: “any specialized
knowledge that is used to transform
the natural environment & human
includes irrigation systems &
nonmaterial specialized knowledge
such as religious lore, ceremony,
writing systems
evolved from using pictures to
represent sounds of words or parts of
– complex, required hundreds of signsmonopolized by scribes
– Developed to write Sumerian but later
used to write Akkadian & other Semitic
& non-Semitic languages
– Used to write economic, political, legal,
literary, religious, & scientific texts
Mesopotamian Technology & Science
• Irrigation, transportation
(boats, barges, & donkeys),
bronze metallurgy,
brickmaking, engineering
• Military technology-paid,
full-time soldiers; horses;
horse-drawn chariot; bow &
arrow; & siege machinery
• numbers (base-60 system)advances in mathematics &
Egypt:“Gift of the Nile”
• Defined by Nile River-narrow
green strip of arable land on
either side of its banks, & fertile
Nile delta area
• “Red land” barren desert
• “Black Land,” majority population
• Divided into two areas: Upper
Egypt, along the southern part of
the Nile as far south as the First
• Lower Egypt, the northern delta
• Climate good for agriculture-little
or no rainfall
• Farmers had to depend on river
for irrigation
Egypt: “Gift of the Nile”
• Nile floods regularly & at
right time-leaving rich &
easily worked deposit of silt
– depended on floods
– usually regular-inspired
orderly view of universe
• Other natural resources:
reeds (papyrus for writing)
wild animals
birds & fish
plentiful building stone & clay
access to copper & turquoise
from desert
– gold from Nubia
Egypt: Divine Kingship
Evolved from pattern of small states ruled by local kings-emerged into large, unified Egyptian state
around 3100 B.C.E.
Organized into thirty dynasties: three longer periods: Old, Middle, New Kingdoms
divided by periods of political fragmentation & chaos
Kings (pharaohs) dominated Egyptian state- gods come to earth-ensured welfare & prosperity of
people-maintain Ma’at (truth, order, justice, harmony, law, morality)
Death of pharaoh beginning of journey back to gods
Funeral rites & preservation of body important to maintain Ma’at
Early pharaohs buried in flat-topped rectangular tombs-stepped pyramid tombs appeared about
2630 B.C.E. & smooth-sided pyramids later
Great pyramids at Giza constructed 2550-2490 B.C.E. (Old Kingdom period only)
Constructed w/ stone tools & simple lever, pulley & rollers-required substantial resources & labor
Egypt: Administration and Communication
central administration through system of provincial & village bureaucracies
Bureaucrats kept track of land, labor, taxes, people; collected resources
Supported central government institutions- palace, bureaucracy & army &
maintain temples, construct monuments
Two writing systems: hieroglyphics & cursive
Papyrus- used for religious & secular literature &record keeping
Tensions between central & local government were constant
When central power was predominant, provincial officials were appointed &
promoted by central government on merit
When central power was weak, provincial officials become autonomous- made
positions hereditary-buried in own districts rather than near tomb of king
Egypt: Administration & Communication
More rural than Mesopotamia
had cities, but haven’t been
excavated-know little about urban life
regarded all foreigners as enemies,
but desert nomad neighbors posed
no serious military threat
more interested in acquiring
resources than in acquiring territory;
resources acquired through trade
Egypt traded directly with the Levant
& Nubia- indirectly with Punt
(probably part of modern Somalia)
Exports-papyrus, grain, gold
Imports-incense, Nubian gold,
Lebanese cedar, tropical African ivory,
ebony, animals
People of Egypt
Population of about 1 to 1.5 million
physically heterogeneous people,
some dark-skinned-some lighterskinned
Divided into several social strata: (1)
the king & high-ranking officials; (2)
lower-level officials, local leaders and
priests, professionals, artisans, welloff farmers; and (3) peasants, the
majority of the population
Peasants lived in villages, cultivated
the soil- paid taxes, provided labor
Women were subordinate to men,
engaged in domestic activities
Had right to hold, inherit & will
Retained rights over their own dowry
after divorce
More rights than Mesopotamian
Egypt: Belief and Knowledge
• Based on a cyclical view of nature
• Two most significant gods-sungod Re & Osiris, god of the
Underworld, who was killed,
dismembered & then restored to
life, represented renewal & life
after death
• Kings-identified with Re & Horus,
son of Osiris- served as chief
• large amount of wealth spent
constructing fabulous temples
• Temple activities included regular
offerings to gods & great festivals
Egypt: Belief and Knowledge
• Belief in afterlife inspired
knowledge of chemistry
• Tombs pictures/artifacts
provide extensive information
about daily life
• Tombs built in desert avoided
wasting arable land-reflected
social status of deceased
• Mathematics, astronomy,
calendar making, irrigation,
engineering/architecture, &
transportation technology
Indus Valley Civilization
• Central part of Indus Valley
area is Sind region of modern
• Adjacent related areas
included Hakra River (now
dried up), the Punjab & Indus
delta region
• Indus carries silt- floods
regularly twice a year
• Access to river water for
irrigation allowed farmers in
the Indus Valley & related
areas to produce two crops a
year despite the region’s
sparse rainfall
Indus Valley: Material
flourished from 2600 to 1900 B.C.E.
Harappa (3½ miles in circumference,
population about 35,000)
Mohenjo-Daro (several times larger)
Surrounded by brick walls, streets laid
out in grid pattern-supplied with
covered drainage systems to carry away
remains of citadel-center of authority,
storehouses for grain, barracks for
controlled surrounding farmland
Harappa located on frontier between
agricultural land & pastoral economiesmay have been a nexus of trade in
copper, tin, & precious stones from NW
High degree of standardization in city
Some scholars argue was result of
extensive trade within the region rather
than the existence of authoritarian
central government
Indus Valley
• Better access to metal than
Egyptians & Mesopotamiansartisans created utilitarian &
luxury items
• Extensive irrigation systems,
potter’s wheel, kiln-baked
bricks & bronze metallurgy
• Extensive trade w/ NW- Iran,
Afghanistan & even
• We know little of the
identity, origins, or fate of
people of Indus Valley
• Writing system has not been
Indus Valley: Transformation
• Former- Indus Valley cities
abandoned around 1900 B.C.E. –
due to invasion
• Now -decline due to breakdown
caused by natural disasters &
ecological change
• decline in agricultural production
• drying up of Hakra Riversalinization, erosion
• When urban centers collapsed, so
did way of life of elites-peasants
probably adapted & survived
Political & Economic Comparisons
• Mesopotamia, Egypt, & Indus Valley all developed along river systems where they
were assured an adequate water supply for agriculture
• They all developed political structures for organization of labor to provide
irrigation systems
• Kingship developed as the political leadership system of both Egypt &
Mesopotamia-Egypt’s kings were believed to be divine in origin, while
Mesopotamia’s rulers were not
Religious & Cultural Comparisons
• The predictable flooding of the Nile translated into a relatively optimistic outlook
on the afterlife for Egyptians
• In contrast, the unpredictable and violent flooding of the Tigris-Euphrates Basin
gave Mesopotamians a more fearful expectation of their afterlife
• All three civilizations developed architectural techniques for building large
• Egyptian women appear to have enjoyed more equality in society than did
Mesopotamian women
Discussion Questions
1. How did differences in the environment and geographical location affect
the development of these three early civilizations?
2. What evidence do you see here of interaction between these civilizations
and other peoples (including interaction among the three civilizations
themselves)? How important do you think that interaction with other
peoples was for the development of these three civilizations?
3. What demands arose for these civilizations that led to their technological
4. What factors might explain the rise and decline of civilizations in general
and of these particular civilizations?
5. How do the religious beliefs and world-views in Mesopotamia and Egypt
reflect the relationships between the environment and the people of
these civilizations?
6. What is the connection between knowledge and power? How did writing
play into this relationship?

similar documents