The Prehistoric World

The World Before History To about 3000 BC.

Introduction to History
• History is a written record of the past • Everything before writing is prehistoric • Progress is driven by human ambition to change one’s conditions to match one’s hopes. • Social power comes from communication that sustains cooperation.

• Groups that achieved more efficient communication and cooperation within their own ranks improved their competitive position and survival chances. • The power of human communication, cooperation and competition shaped history • Scientists believe humans first appeared in Africa. • To expand across world humans needed capacity to find food and settle in new environments.

History Terms
• Society : organized groups of people with a language and beliefs that can be taught. Culture: The total way of life of a group of people that is passed on to the next generation. Civilization: A state of human society with a complex culture including: government, arts, writing, science, and religion.

Kalahari Bushmen Family

• Anthropologists study human societies (living people). • Archaeologists study artifacts. (old stuff). • Hunter gatherer societies: hunt animals and gather fruits, nuts and vegetables. • First division of labor: men hunted while women and children gathered fruits, nuts and wild vegetables. Shared the food.

Man was in competition with other hunters.

The Old Stone Age
• Paleolithic means Old Stone. • Old stone age, flint knives and spear heads (artifacts) 

Stone Ax

Learning to use and make fire was a big step for mankind.

Mans Big Problem
• Getting enough to eat • Carrying Capacity: limitations of an environment on numbers of people it can feed. • Carrying Capacity can be changed by discovering a new source of food, discovering how to store or preserve food, or produce more crops or higher crop yield. Carrying capacity also influenced by changes in climate. • When an area is near its Carrying Capacity there are serious shortages of food.

Dealing with the problem
• Develop better methods of getting food. Problem with this: population will grow. • Take land from neighbors: war. • Fewer people: infanticide, killing babies; later marriage. Problem with this: If one group has fewer people group with more will take land.

The Ice age was a period of expanding ice sheets in the northern and southern hemispheres.

In the Ice Age people had many large animals to hunt.

Early Societies
• Forager bands: hunter gatherers. Up to 40 people. Men related to each other. • Classless societies: everyone equal. • Leaders rise based on ability and skill. • Land “carrying capacity” for hunter gathers very small: each group needed a lot of land. Had to continually move camp to search for food. • Led to constant war to defend hunting grounds. No-man’s land in between hunting grounds. • Up to 25% of men and 5% women killed in war.

Man became a Big Game Hunter.

Who was Neanderthal Man?

Neanderthal man was fully human.

Neanderthal Men trap a woolly rhinoceros.

Man Domesticated the Dog during the Old Stone Age
European Gray Wolf Dogs were the first animals To be domesticated (tamed) Dogs provided more than companionship. Almost every society on earth kept dogs. Dogs were most likely domesticated because of mans constant warfare. Their barking gave warning when enemies were near.

Breeds were created by selective breeding.

Language, song and dance:

created emotional solidarity and made cooperation easier.

Painting on cave wall.

Dancing Shaman in reindeer skins: Shaman knew how to communicate with spirit world.

Paleolithic Art

Cave Painting Lascaux France: Successful big game hunters probably learned to smoke meat. Gave them leisure time to create art.

Stone Age Artists

Venus of Willendorf

Global Warming
• Warming climate caused thick forests, old food sources of some big animals cut off. Some big animals became extinct. • People hunted smaller animals and learned to fish (invented bows, nets, baskets, cord bags, boomerangs, spear throwers, snares and fish hooks).

Bone needles were used to make clothes from animal skins.

Stone Age Wigwam

The Noble Savage Myth
• Many people want to believe that humans once lived in peace and in balance with nature. • Popular idea that traditional societies are more noble than Western Civilization because they had more respect for nature and lived in peace. • The idea that Native Americans and other traditional people lived in ecological harmony is pure fantasy. No evidence that ideal ecological behavior ever existed for long anywhere in the world. • Competition for food made traditional societies warlike. A peaceful society could not last long.

Running a herd over a cliff is not killing only what you need. Native Americans had uses for every part of the buffalo. But not every part of every buffalo.

Stone age hunters often used this method to hunt buffalo and wild horses.

Fable of two make believe societies.
• The Ant People live in harmony with nature. • Careful not to use up resources and keep population under control. • Do not fill up “carry capacity” of their land. • They are a peaceful people. • The Grasshopper People are wasteful and use up their resources. • They allow their population to grow and soon there are too many people for the “carry capacity of their land.” • What happens next?

The larger Grasshopper tribe attacks and kills the Ant People and takes their land!

Tribal warriors Papua New Guinea

The Roots of War
• Humans starve only when there are no other choices. • Neighbors are a potential new source of resources. • Humans have the ability to take resources from other groups. • Threat of starvation usually leads to conflict. • Constant wars helped control population.

The Agriculture Revolution (7000- 6500 BC)
• Probably began in hills of north and east of Iraq • Learned to grow wheat and barley (bread and beer) • Domesticated animals (goats and sheep) • Slash and burn farmers in woods: needed ax, hoe, sickle • New Stone Age: polished granite or basalt ax heads, clay pots and bricks • Villages: tribal society developed • Number of people grew, division of labor.

Neolithic Tools

Stone sickle

Stone ax Flint spearhead

A Neolithic man and woman glean wheat and barley on a spring morning in Mesopotamia around 5000 B.C. In the background stand the mud houses of their permanent village.

Domestic Animals

Goats and Sheep domesticated in Middle East about 7500 BC

Impact of Farming
• Farmers actions tended to hurt environment more and faster than foragers. • More wood needed to cook crops, burn clay to make bricks, heat lime to plaster walls. • Cutting down forests destroyed animal habitat and caused erosion of soil. Over grazing by sheep turned grasslands into deserts. • Farmers could reproduce faster than foragers. Did not solve long term “carry capacity” problem. • Benefits of new plants and animals and new technology quickly used up by growing populations.

New Societies
• Farmer Tribes: farming increases land’s carrying capacity. • Still classless societies: everyone equal. • Leaders still rise based on ability and skill. • More people survived to fill land up to carrying capacity. Digging irrigation systems and cutting down forest was hard work. Most tribal people would rather fight to take existing resources than create new ones. • Still always at war. Pushed hunter gatherers off the best land. No-man’s land in between tribes. • In time tribal societies developed into larger more complex social organizations known as chiefdoms.

A Neolithic Tribal Village

Neolithic villagers busy themselves in front of pressed-mud houses in Mesopotamia around 4500 B.C.

• Wars were slow paced but losses were high over time. People lived in constant threat of attack. Death rate in wars still about 25% of men 5% women. • Almost every adult male was a warrior. Lots of raids and ambushes. (Native American style warfare) War was very personal. • Killed men, women and children. Few prisoners taken except women who became part of victors tribe or men to be tortured. Often took heads, scalps, or body parts as trophies. • In one generation tribes gained or lost up to 60 percent of their land. Some societies were completely destroyed.

Tribal Wars

What he probably looked like.

Otzi: the ice man frozen tribal warrior


Body discovered by hikers in Alps, 1991. Evidence of tribal war. Carried copper ax better for chopping people than trees. Cause of death: arrow in back. Probably killed during raid on neighboring tribe about 3300 BC.

Neolithic Art

Walls of Jericho about 6000 B.C. more proof of wars.

Baked clay pottery

Neolithic Plastered Skull Jericho c. 6000 B.C.

Egyptian farmer using a plow drawn by domesticated animals.