The Earliest Human Societies to 2500 BCE

The Earliest Human
to 2500 BCE
HI 101 Origins of Civilization Fall 2014
Study Questions:
• How did humans evolve and where did they migrate?
• What were the key features of Paleolithic Society?
• How did the Agricultural Revolution develop and how did it
effect human society?
• How did growing social hierarchies increase the complexity
of humans society in the Neolithic Period?
• Human history before the invention of writing & the
keeping of written records (about or circa (ca.) 3,500
• Lasted over 10 million years!
• Hominids: immediate ancestors of Humans appeared
ca. 10 million plus years ago in Africa
• Hominids—species family that contains Humans,
chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans
• Four Key Elements:
1. Ancestors of Humans appeared in Africa
2. Homo Sapiens (our species of Hominids or “Modern
Humans”) appeared ca. 200.000 BCE
3. Homo Sapiens migrated out of Africa
4. Humans began to invent culture—or modify the
environment to fit their needs & transmit culture to future
• Culture: ways of living built up by a group
and passed on from one generation to
another, including behavior, material
things, ideas, institutions, and
religion. The combination of speech and
material invention was necessary for the
development of human culture.
PreEvolution and Migration
• Early Hominids:
• Australopithecus (“Lucy”)
• Homo habilis
• Homo erectus
• Homo sapiens
AFRICA: Modern Human Beginnings
• Australopithecus
• Oldest bipedal
hominid found
• 3.2 Million Years Old
• Walked upright
• Carried & used
tools—led to larger
• Evolved into Homo
“Lucy,” Hadar, Ethiopia
Homo Habilis (Handy man)
• Lived 2.5 million
years ago
• Made and used
sharpened stone
• Increased intelligence
• Evolved into Homo
Homo Erectus (upright human)
• 2 million years ago
• Improved toolmaking skills
• Better hunting
• Increased vocal
ability, mobility
• migrated out of east
Africa to Eurasia
Homo Sapiens (Thinking
• Emerged in East Africa
• Larger brains
• Better language ability
• Migrated across Africa to Eurasia
• Interbred with and replaced Homo
Erectus—colonized the globe
Why are Big Brains Important?
• Language=social organization
• Better for attracting a mate & passing big brains onto later
• Make better weapons—fish hooks, harpoons, snares, traps
• Get more food!
• Bigger brains need more energy and require more food
Human Migration &
• Pre-Historic Man
• Migrated throughout the world by raft or crossing land
• Racial Differentiation
“Racial” Differentiation
• If we all started in Africa, then why do we look so different?
• Migrating groups became isolated & mated within the same
• Environment and breeding led to differences in skin and hair
color, eye and body shape
• Created different cultural practices
• The term “race” and “racial” categories were developed in the
1700s in Europe
There are 2 important time periods in Pre-history
1. Paleolithic: 250,000-9,000 BCE
2. Neolithic: ca. 9000 BCE
Paleolithic Society
250,000-9,000 BCE
• Humans completely dependent on their environment
• Foraged for food—mostly plants, fish, seafood, small animals
• Hunted some large game with spears and bows
• Art & Culture:
• Evidence suggest body ornamentation, ceremonial burials,
paintings, decorations, musical instruments, & expressions of
• Spirituality:
• Careful burials suggest belief in afterlife
• Animism: everything around them had a spirit
Neanderthal burials
Neolithic Era, ca. 9000 BCE
• Development of Agriculture—Humans became independent
of nature
• Agricultural Revolution:
Began in “Fertile
Crescent” of Mesopotamia
Planting of seeds
Domestication of animals
Increased human population
More settled lifestyle—permanent housing, food storage
Specialized labor—tool makers, Pot makers, home builders, etc.
Social Hierarchy & Slavery
• Stored food—
• Valuable
• Source of conflict
• Required more complex rules—led to formation of power structures
• People with power became elites in society who controlled
• Needed force to maintain power
• Eventually bought the labor of others or other people
• Allowed for rise of Priestly class—responsible for rituals to
ensure good harvest
Development of Trade
• Settled societies began to trade goods with one another