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Human Prehistory


Human Prehistory Early humans to the Neolithic revolution – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Human Prehistory

Human Prehistory
  • Early humans to the Neolithic revolution

Human Prehistory
  • The first bipedal hominids emerged over 5 million
    years ago in Africa.
  • The human species began to emerge in East Africa
    around 2.5 million years ago.
  • Between 2.5 million years ago and 100,000 years
    ago, the human species went through a variety of
    evolutionary phases in different parts of the

Human Prehistory
Human Prehistory
  • A large number of human species were generated
    over time (all believed to be descended from H.
    Erectus), but most of them disappeared well
    before the appearance of modern humans, Homo
    sapiens sapiens.
  • Current theories posit that adverse climatic
    conditions and competition from other species
    (human and non-human) caused the other humanoid
    species to disappear.

Human Prehistory
  • A major pre-agricultural development is the
    experience of massive human species migration.
  • Some thousands of years after the human species
    originated in eastern Africa, they began to pour
    out into other regions, most likely in search of
  • Ultimately, humans settled around the world.

Human Prehistory
The Paleolithic Age
  • The Paleolithic Age (Old Stone Age) lasted for
    almost two million years (until about 14,000
    years ago).
  • Humans began to walk more upright and they
    developed a larger brain capacity.
  • Humans during this period tamed the use of fire
    (about 750,000 years ago) and used simple (mostly
    stone) tools.
  • Wearing animal skins enabled humans to live in
    colder climates.

The Paleolithic Age
The Paleolithic Age
  • It is believed that the first humans left Africa
    about 750,000 years ago.
  • Other species such as Homo pekinensis (Peking
    Man) have been found in China and Indonesia and
    date from 600,000-350,000 years ago.

The Paleolithic Age
  • Human remains have been found in Britain that are
    250,000 years old.
  • Humans crossed into Australia (via Southeast
    Asia) about 60,000 years ago.

The Paleolithic Age
  • Humans came across the Siberian land bridge into
    North America at least 25-30,000 years ago (maybe

The Paleolithic Age
  • By 25,000 BCE, Homo sapiens sapiens occupied (in
    small numbers) virtually every region of the
    world that is currently inhabited except New
    Zealand, some other Pacific islands, and Bermuda.

The Paleolithic Age
  • This means human history begins at a point when
    the species was widely dispersed.
  • Since humans were spread out, and in small
    numbers, environmental conditions caused the
    formation of local cultures and institutions,
    setting the stage for the current regional aspect
    of human identity.

The Paleolithic Age
  • Modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) emerged
    between 240-120,000 years ago.
  • Today, every human on the planet is of the same
  • H. sapiens sapiens.

The Paleolithic Age
  • H. sapiens sapiens coexisted with other human
    species such as Neanderthals (actually a
    subspecies) for many thousands of years.
  • We dont know exactly how H. sapiens sapiens
    triumphed over the other species.

The Paleolithic Age
  • Anatomically, modern humans can be characterized
    by the lighter build of their skeletons compared
    to earlier humans.
  • Modern humans have very large brains (avg 1300
  • Housing and protecting this brain involved the
    reorganization of the skull into what is thought
    of as moderna thin-walled, high-vaulted skull,
    with a flat, near vertical forehead.

The Paleolithic Age
  • Modern human faces also show much less (if any)
    of the heavy brow ridges and prognathism of other
    early humans.
  • Our jaws are also less heavily developed, with
    smaller teeth.

The Paleolithic Age
  • It is believed that H. sapiens sapiens had less
    of an advantage with brain capacity and more of
    an advantage with running ability.
  • Neanderthals were excellent at long-distance,
    slow running which worked when hunting large
  • But H. sapiens sapiens had the advantage with
    smaller, swifter animals.

The Paleolithic Age
  • So archeologists dont know if H. sapiens sapiens
    simply out-competed other species like
    Neanderthals--clubbed them to death (our species
    was very violent from the outset)or intermarried
    with them.
  • Some of you may have more Neanderthal DNA in you
    than you realize?

The Paleolithic Age
  • Soon after the emergence of H. sapiens sapiens,
    sociobiologists believe humans developed what has
    become known as the speech gene (actually an
    articulation gene).
  • This gene is hidden among 50,000 other genes.

The Paleolithic Age
  • The speech gene greatly facilitated human
    communication (more talking-less grunting) which
    helped lead to organized human societies.
  • From this point onward, there have been no major
    evolutionary changes in the human experience.

The Paleolithic Age
  • The human species, even before H. sapiens sapiens
    was a tool-using animal, more adept than other
    species at finding tools for hunting, gathering,
    or for use as weapons.
  • During the Mesolithic (12,000-8,000 BCE) and
    Neolithic Eras (8,000-3,000 BCE) tool use became
    increasingly deliberate.

The Paleolithic Age
  • But instead of just finding tools, humans became
    capable of making them, fashioning rocks, wood,
    and bone into better weapons, better tools, and
    even primitive boats.

The Paleolithic Age
  • About 25,000 years ago, Paleolithic peoples began
    miniaturizing their stone tools.
  • Known as micro-blades, these smaller and more
    refined spear points, arrowheads, knives, and
    scrapers were often mounted in antler, bone, and
    wooden handles.

Paleolithic Art
  • In February 2012, a cave was discovered in
    northern Spain (called El Castillio) with
    paintings carbon dated to c. 42,000 years ago
    (the oldest known in the world).
  • This date coincides with the earliest known Homo
    sapiens in Europe.
  • Some archeologists believe the art to be the work
    of Neanderthals, which has caused some
    archeologists to rethink Neanderthal culture.

Paleolithic Art
  • Paintings from El Castillio (northern Spain)

Paleolithic Art
  • El Castillio.

Paleolithic Art
  • In Australia, cave paintings have been found of
    long extinct fauna (dating to over 40,000 years
    ago), making it one of the oldest known
    Paleolithic art sites.

Paleolithic Art
  • Chauvet Cave (southern France), dates to c.
    35,000-30,000 BCE.
  • Megaceros (an extinct deer).

Paleolithic Art
  • A Spotted Hyena (believed to be over 20,000 years
    old) at Chauvet.

Paleolithic Art
  • Cave art from the Mousterian Pluvial in Algeria,
    c. 29,000 BCE.

Paleolithic Art
  • Lascaux (France). Pictures go left to right
    telling a story.
  • C. 20-15,000 BCE

Paleolithic Art
  • Lascaux (France)

Paleolithic Art
  • Lascaux (France) The Hall of Bulls.

Paleolithic Art
  • Altamira (northern Spain). Discovered in the
    1880s, it was the first discovered example of
    Paleolithic cave art.
  • Considered the Sistine Chapel of cave art.
  • Horse and Bison c. 15-10,000 BCE

Paleolithic Art
  • Altamira.

Paleolithic Art
  • The Gua Tewet (Tree of Life) in Borneo. Age
  • Historians and archeologists do not know exactly
    how Paleolithic people understood the nonmaterial

Paleolithic Art
  • The prevalence of Venus figurines and other
    symbols throughout Europe has convinced many
    scholars that Paleolithic religious thought had a
    strongly feminine dimension.
  • This was embodied in Great Goddess figurines
    and focused most likely on regeneration and
    renewal of life.

Paleolithic Art
  • Venus of Willendorf (Austria) -carved limestone
    about 41/2 high, c. 25,000 BCE. The most famous
    of the Venus figurines.

Paleolithic Art
  • Carved Venus on a cave wall and Venus of Lespugue
    (carved tusk found in southern France)
  • C. 25-15,000 BCE

The Paleolithic Age
  • It seems likely that Paleolithic peoples
    developed a cyclical view of time that drew on
    the changing phases of the moon and on the cycles
    of female fertilitybirth, menstruation,
    pregnancy, new birth, and death.
  • Such understandings of the cosmos, which saw
    endlessly repeated patterns of regeneration and
    disintegration, were very different than later
    Western views, which saw time as moving in a
    straight line toward some predetermined goal.

The Paleolithic Age
  • Along with the increased use of tools came the
    domestication of certain animals.
  • Tool use and animal domestication set the
    framework for the emergence of agriculture.

The Paleolithic Age
  • Initially the dog was domesticated, and before
    the advent of agriculture, in some parts of the
    world it was also the horse.

The Paleolithic Age
  • Recent published research (May 2013) of DNA
    skeletal evidence in Siberia found that dogs may
    have been domesticated twice as long ago as
    previously thought (32,000 years ago).
  • People who had dogs during a hunt would likely
    have had an advantage over those who didn't.

The Paleolithic Age
  • Dogs would also have served as a warning system,
    barking at hostile strangers from neighboring
    tribes. They could have defended their humans
    from predators.
  • And finally, though this is not a pleasant
    thought, when times were tough, dogs could have
    served as an emergency food supply.

The Paleolithic Age
  • Sheep (Western Asia) 8500 BCE
  • Cat (Mesopotamia) 8500 BCE
  • Goats (Western Asia) 8000 BCE
  • Pigs (Western Asia) 7500 BCE
  • Cattle (Eastern Sahara) 7000 BCE
  • Chicken (India) 6000 BCE
  • Donkey (NE Africa) 4000 BCE
  • Horse (Central Asia) 3600 BCE

The Paleolithic Age
  • Approximately 14,000 years ago the last great ice
    age endedthis enabled humans to live in more
    northern climates.
  • About 12,000 years ago (roughly 10,000 BCE), it
    is estimated that there were, at most, 5-10
    million people in the world.
  • It is a very small number, very widely dispersed,
    but agriculture will be introduced into this

  • But before agriculture, humans were
    hunter-gatherers (also known as foragers).
  • Theories about why humans migrated out of Africa
    include drought and that hunter-gatherer
    societies require as much as 2.5-4 sq miles of
    space per person.
  • Even modest population growth would force
    hunter-gatherers to move a little further to seek
    out new space and new hunting grounds.

  • A hunter-gatherer society has the fewest social
  • Usually (but not always) the men hunt animals and
    the women gather plants (they dont plant, they
    only gather).
  • Even though more prestige is given to the men for
    supplying meat, the women gatherers usually
    contribute more food to the group (up to 4/5ths
    of the total).

  • Hunter-gatherer groups are always nomadic and
    usually have between 10-25 members (kinship
  • As food supplies dwindle in one area, they move
    on to another.

  • Hunter-gatherer societies place a high value on
    sharing food, which is essential for their

  • Women tend to breast feed their young for 3-5
    years, both for nourishment and to limit their
    ability to conceive more children.
  • A hunter-gatherer society cannot afford to have
    too many mouths to feed and too many young
    children are a burden for a society always on the
  • Between nourishment, disease issues, or
    infanticide, children have only a 50/50 chance of
    reaching adulthood.

  • According to some anthropologists, 50 of all
    newborn females were killed by their parents
    during the Paleolithic Age.
  • Some societies also practiced senilicide.
  • The diet of foragers consisted mainly of gathered
    foodsplants, roots, nuts, small animals, and
    insectssupplemented by scavenging or hunting.

  • Of all societies, hunter-gatherers are the most

  • Since what they hunt/gather is perishable, they
    dont accumulate personal possessions (only what
    they can carry).
  • Consequently, there is no concept of
    wealth/poverty within the group.
  • There are no rulers and decisions are made
    through discussion at the group level.
  • There usually is a shaman, an individual thought
    to be able to influence the spirits.

  • Since their needs are basic and they dont
    accumulate material possessions, hunter-gatherers
    have the most leisure time of all human groups.

  • Modern anthropologists studying the few remaining
    hunter-gatherer societies have concluded their
    lives are not nasty, brutish, and short as was
    thought but instead they tend to be characterized
    by adequate and varied food supplies, high levels
    of health and fitness from a balanced diet and
    frequent exercise, freedom from disease
    epidemics, and as mentioned, there is ample
    leisure time.

  • All human groups were once hunter-gatherers.
  • Up until a few hundred years ago, these groups
    were still common.
  • Today, there are less than 300 hunter-gatherer
    groups worldwide.
  • Pygmies in Africa and aborigines in Australia are
    among those whose traditions are vanishing.

Origins of Patriarchy
  • The most accepted theory on the origins of
    patriarchy (a male dominated society) points to
    the social consequences of reproduction and early
  • To balance the high death rate and maintain the
    population, women had to have many children.
  • Between pregnancy, birth, and nursing, women
    spent much of their lives around the camp.

Origins of Patriarchy
  • With a child at her breast or in her uterus, or
    one carried on her hip or on her back, women were
    physically encumbered.
  • These encumbrances led to women staying home (at
    camp) and men becoming the hunters of large
  • Over time, men became dominant as they hunted,
    made contact with other tribes, traded, and waged

Origins of Patriarchy
  • Men controlled the instruments of death, the
    weapons of war and of the hunt.
  • Men gained prestige by killing animals (protein
    source) to feed the tribe, by being victorious in
    battle, and by accumulating (limited) possessions
    through trade.
  • Some sociologists believe that some men may have
    risked their lives as warriors to acquire women
    (as prizes).

Origins of Patriarchy
Origins of Patriarchy
  • Womens roles, on the other hand, were considered
    routine and not risky.

Origins of Patriarchy
  • Since men tended to risk their lives more often
    than women (hunting, battle, etc) they came to
    believe in their own superiority.
  • Many male activities became shrouded in secrecy
    and men created elaborate rules and rituals to
    avoid contamination by females.

Paleolithic Impact on the Planet
  • As early human species spread across the planet,
    they entered continents that had no earlier
    hominine colonization, particularly Australia and
    the Americas.
  • Humans proved to be highly adaptable and
    technologically proficient by initiating a wave
    of extinctions among the megafaunal (that is,
    large sized animal) inhabitants of these

Paleolithic Impact on the Planet
  • Since these megafaunal animals had no previous
    experience with the introduced predators
    (humans), they became relatively easy prey.
  • It is estimated that in the Americas nearly 75
    of all animals weighing over 100 lbs disappeared
    after the arrival of humans. In Australia that
    number is closer to 90.

Paleolithic Impact on the Planet
  • The largest species were the most threatened
    because they moved and reproduced very slowly
    the mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, and giant elk
    disappeared in Eurasia the horse, elephant,
    giant armadillo, and sloth vanished in North
    America, and in Australia dozens of large
    marsupials disappeared.

Paleolithic Impact on the Planet
  • Procoptodon, the worlds tallest marsupial.
  • The woolly rhinoceros

The Mesolithic Age
  • The Mesolithic Age (Middle Stone Age) went from
    12,000-8,000 BCE.
  • Major changes included the ability to shape and
    sharpen stone tools, make needles out of bone,
  • More animals were domesticated, like cows.
  • Pottery and basket-making begin to be developed
    for use as food storage.

Mesolithic Art (also called Archaic)
  • Figure from Central America and bowls from

Mesolithic Art
  • Early Jewelry (c. 10,000 BCE)

The Neolithic Revolution
  • The advent of the introduction of agriculture and
    animal husbandry (known as the Neolithic
    revolution) is considered by many historians to
    be one of the two key changes in the human
    experiencesince our species emerged.
  • The other key change?

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Archeologists and historians believe agriculture
    was invented in at least three separate places
    sometime between 9,000 BCE and 5,000 BCE.
  • The first occurrence was in the northern Middle
    East/Black Sea region with the domestication of
    wheat and barley.
  • It probably occurred because of changes in the
    animal supply.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • The earliest traces of wheat and barley were
    found in Iraq.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Women most likely started the Neolithic
    revolution because as gatherers, they were
    probably the ones who noticed if you drop some
    seeds in the ground, a little later something
    else happened.
  • Well never know if this happened by accident or
    by design.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • The second invention occurred in southern China
    and continental Southeast Asia around 7,000 BCE
    with the introduction of rice.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • The third clear separate invention was the
    domestication of corn (maize) in Central America
    around 5,000 BCE.
  • Traces of the oldest known corn (Teosinte) was
    found under this boulder in Mexico.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Agriculture may have been invented in other
    places too, like sub-Saharan Africa and northern
    China. We simply dont know.
  • But by 5,000 BCE agriculture had gradually spread
    and was becoming the most common economic system
    for the largest number of people in the world.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Despite the advantages of agriculture over
    hunting and gathering, its widespread adoption
    was slow.
  • One reason for this slow spread was that the
    contacts among relatively far-flung populations
    was minimal (it took several thousand years for
    agriculture to disseminate from the Middle East
    to Europe).

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Not all regions were suitable for agriculture
    some were arid (dry) or heavily forested.
  • An alternative economic system based on nomadic
    herding of animals (known as pastoral societies)
    prevailed for a long time over agriculture in
    parts of the Middle East, Africa, the Americas,
    and especially Central Asia (some still exist

The Neolithic Revolution
  • These nomadic pastoral groups found they could
    tame and breed some of the animals they
    huntedgoats, sheep, pigs, cattle, and camels.
  • These pastoral societies developed in regions
    where low rainfall made it impractical to build
    life around growing crops.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • They remained nomadic, following their animals to
    fresh pastures.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Agriculture involves settling down, which might
    not have appealed to some hunting-gathering
    societies that valued their capacity (freedom) to
    move around.
  • Agriculture might have been repellant to
    societies where males were accustomed to boasting
    about their hunting exploits.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • When agriculture was introduced, it brought
    massive changes to the human experience.
  • First, it changed the nature of work.
    Agriculture involves more work, particularly for
    men, than hunting and gathering.
  • It is estimated that hunting/gathering, on
    average, involves about 3 hours of work a day.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Agriculture, especially in season, requires
    much, much more.
  • Agriculture redefined and increased the work
    expectations of human society.
  • Agriculture also redefined gender relations. In
    most hunter/gatherer societies, men did the
    hunting and women the gathering. Since both
    groups contributed to the food supply, women had
    some influence in society.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • In agricultural societies, patriarchal systems
  • Since men increasingly assumed the role as the
    principle cultivator of crops, they increased
    their dominance over women.
  • In all agricultural societies, not only does male
    dominance over women occur, but older males
    dominate younger ones.
  • This characteristic of agricultural societies
    still exists in our world today.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • The most obvious reason for the increase in male
    dominance was that agriculture both permitted and
    required an expansion of the birthrate.
  • Domestication also benefited the domesticated
    species (plant and animal) as farmers protected
    them from predators and helped them reproduce,
    ensuring their survival (which is why there are
    so many dogs, sheep, and cows and so much wheat,
    rice, and corn).

The Neolithic Revolution
  • More secure food suppliesthats the principle
    advantage of agriculture over hunting/gathering.
  • Producing more abundant and more predictable food
    supplies permitted larger numbers of children to
    be born.
  • Agricultural societies needed more children to
    work the land.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Greater food supplies created new patterns of
    child rearing and an increase in the per capita
    birth rate (usually between 5-7 births per
  • In a hunting-gathering society, children have
    relatively few functions until they reach their
    early teen years.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • In agricultural societies, childhood and work
    became closely associated.
  • Virtues, such as hard work and obedience, became
    part of the lessons children learned in an
    agricultural society.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Early farmers faced limitations on the amount of
    food they could produce since there was a
    shortage of laborers (why so many children were
    needed), water, and nutrients (it would take
    thousands of years for people to understand the
    benefits of animal fertilizer).
  • So there were three main farming technologies
    early farmers adopted that reflected these

The Neolithic Revolution
  • 1. Horticulture traditional gardening
    techniques (clearing land, tilling then planting
    then harvesting).
  • Since human labor provides all the energy, the
    effectiveness of early tools was critical.
  • 2. Swidden (slash and burn) weeding out
    excessive trees to allow more sunlight and
    nutrients to reach the ground.
  • Trees/vegetation cut, then area burned, then
    plots cultivated.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • 3. Chinampas created by Mesoamerican farmers,
    growing crops on man-made floating fields of
    timber and soil, anchored in the middle of lakes.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • The advent of agriculture raises some interesting
    questions about human progress.
  • First, a major drawback was the introduction of
    new inequalities between men and women.
  • A second drawback was that agriculture allowed
    people to settle in clustered communities, which
    exposed inhabitants to periodic epidemic

The Neolithic Revolution
  • A third drawback was that agricultural societies
    altered the local environment in a way that
    hunter/gatherer societies did not.
  • Some regional environments were damaged, even
    destroyed, by agricultural communities (which we
    will see later).
  • But agriculture clearly had advantages, which was
    why it spread (albeit very slowly).

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Where Agriculture Began (BCE)
  • Southwest Asia (Fertile Crescent) 9000
  • Egypt and the Sudan (Nile Valley) 8000
  • China (Yangtze and Huang He valleys) 7000
  • Australasia (New Guinea Highlands) 7000-4000
  • Sub-Saharan Africa 3000-2000
  • Mesoamerica (Central Mexico) 3000-2000
  • South America (Andes and Amazonia) 3000-2000
  • Indus valley 2500-2200
  • North America (Mississippi valley) 2000-1000

The Neolithic Revolution
  • One of its advantages was that it produced
    products that could be fermented and turned into
  • Some historians believe this is one of the
    reasons why men gave up hunting to adopt
  • Clay, southern Iraq, 3100 BCE (3x4).

The Neolithic Revolution
  • One of the first things agricultural societies
    did when they developed writing was to write down
    recipes for the fermentation of wheat, barley,
    grapes, etc.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • More systematically, agriculture significantly
    increased food supplies.
  • This in turn allowed families to have more
    children and resulted in population expansion.
  • These conditions prevailed in much of the world
    from about 9,000 BCE until about 300 years ago.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • But agricultural economies were constrained by
    limitations in the amount of food that a worker
    could generate.
  • Even the most advanced agricultural economies
    required about 80 of the population to be
    involved in agriculture.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • This limited the size of cities to be no more
    than 20 of the population (most were less) and
    limited the amount of taxation that could be
  • More taxes ?
  • Only within the last century did Russias
    agricultural society have an urban level that was
    more than 10 of the population.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Agricultural societies also generated cultural
    emphases, especially by encouraging attention to
    the spring season (and the divine forces
    responsible for creation and renewal).

The Neolithic Revolution
  • The crucial features of agriculture were its role
    in population increase and its capacity to
    generate food surpluses.
  • This freed some people to do other things, like
    manufacture containers (pottery) that could hold
    food or seed from one season to the next.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • One of the first areas where agricultural
    societies generated technological advancement was
    in the area of pottery making (needed to maintain
    an agricultural economy) and metal working.

The Neolithic Revolution-Art
  • Rock panel in Scotland (3,000 BCE)
  • Megalithic tomb in Ireland

The Neolithic Revolution
  • The worlds oldest known city is Jericho, located
    in todays West Bank (Palestine) and dated to
    about 9,000 BCE.
  • The city was surrounded by springs near the Dead

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Jerichos famous walls.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • The second oldest known was a famous Neolithic
    village in southern Turkey Catal Huyuk.
  • The map at right was drawn in the 6th millennium

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Catal Huyuk was a thriving village between 7,000
    3,000 BCE.
  • Artwork found there includes the worlds oldest
    known murals on human built structures.

The Neolithic Revolution
  • Artifacts from Catal Huyuk.
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