You are on page 1of 9



R.J. Forbes

Technology is as old as man himself. Man was evidently a "tool-making primate" from the day when the
first human-like creatures roamed on earth, some 25 million years ago. Such very early human remains
as that of the "Peking Man" (so called because the fossil bones were found near Peking), dating back
about half a million years, are accompanied by stones selected and often shaped to be used as tools.
Even when we do find remains of fossil men not accompanied by tools, it is probably because they were
trapped by death beyond their usual dwelling site, and therefore without their usual tools.


Although lower animals now and then use a stone or other natural object to break a shell or to help them
in some other part of their feeding or breeding habits, only the primates use "tools" in the real sense of
the word to cope with unusual situations. But even among these there are differences. While
chimpanzees and other apes will sometimes use sticks or stone to perform certain tasks and will
sometimes put two sticks together to bring food within reach, this has always remained a " mental
isolation of a single feature." The regular shaping of such tools or aids never became a habit with apes;
but it did become a habit with man.

Man's earliest natural tools were his hands and his teeth. Biologists tell us that the origin of tool-
making is probably related to the advanced functional anatomy of the human hand and its development.
Further, though the muscles of the hands of monkeys differ little from those of early man, the nervous
mechanism, by which men are able to direct the movements of such muscles is of a finer structure, thus
making human hands more flexible than those of other primates. The earliest tool-makers were largely
carnivorous, however, and they needed sharper instruments for hunting, killing, and cutting meat---sharp-
edged stones such as could be chipped from pebbles by hammering them with other stones. The larger
and more efficiently organized cerebrum of early man allowed him slowly to grope toward supplementing
his natural tools. Not only the development of manual activity but also the development of speech guided
man's earliest tool-making activities. The evolution of speech, which "gave everything a name," perhaps
helped to differentiate man's world. Different tools of special types came to be used for hunting, fishing,
and the making of clothes and shelters.


Archaeologists identify and classify early human settlements by the shape and type of the tools found
there. The first tools were of stone, and the earliest stone tools (called "eoliths," because they date from
the Eolithic or earliest Stone age period over a million years ago) were pebbles already preshaped by
nature and simply picked up from a river bed. Very slowly man learned to shape such stones by striking

REPRINTED FROM: R.J. Forbes, "The Beginnings of Technology and Man" in Melvin Kranzberg and
Carroll W. Pursell, Jr.(eds.), Technology in Western Civilization, Vol I (Oxford
University Press: New York, 1967) Chapter 2, pp. 11-26.

them with other stones, and a limited number of more or less standardized shapes for chopping and
cutting were developed. About a hundred thousand years ago primitive man was no longer content with
his chopper tool and pointed flakes; he began to make more specialized tools: pear-shaped "hand axes,"
scrapers, knives, pointed stones, and so forth

The growing range and complexity of man's tools ran parallel to the development of his activities
and achievements in other respects. Archaeological data show that he had now fully become Homo
sapiens, Man the Thinker. By then speech and language as important adjuncts of thought as well as
communication must have been fully developed. His interest, not only in terrestial objects and
phenomena but also in those of the heavens, became more and more evident in the drawings he made
on his tools, belongings, and later on the walls of caves. These show not only the rudiments of science
but also demonstrate his technology, particularly his hunting techniques. The shrewd characterization in
these drawings and the clear ordering of his observations which they demonstrate show the development
of man's mind, though we are not allowed any intimate contact with his thoughts until the earliest writing
appears in the Near East about 3500 B.C.


Two elements governed man's technical progress. Discovery, the recognition and careful observation of
new natural objects and phenomena, is a very subjective event until it leads to some practical application
shared by others either directly or indirectly. Invention, however, is a mental process in which various
discoveries and observation are combined and guided by experience into some new tool or operation.
Much experience was needed to lead to truly important inventions, and hence, the material progress of
ancient man was very slow.


Man's earliest conquest was fire. Ancient myths agree that man was originally threatened and alarmed by
forest fires, but he eventually turned this phenomenon into a boon for mankind. The earliest users of fire
had to keep going those fires which they might have found in nature, for they had no means of producing
it at will. Not until Paleolithic times (Old Stone Age, which lasted about a million years, to 8000 B.C.) in
Europe and Asia did man discover the percussion method: lumps of flint and pyrites struck together
would give off sparks with which tinder, straw, or other inflammable fuel could be set alight. Other
methods, based on the heat of friction produced by rubbing pieces of wood together, as in the fire-saw
and fire-drill, seem to have originated in Southern Asia at a somewhat later date.

Fire was the most important discovery of Paleolithic man, who not only warmed his body but also
applied fire to the preparation of food. The birth of the art of cooking meant that he could now prepare
and "predigest" foodstuffs and augment the diet of fruit, roots, and raw meat on which he had lived for
millennia. He not only increased his range of foodstuffs enormously, and was able to vary his diet, but
more importantly, by drying meat and other foods with the help of fire, he could now lay in a supply to
help him subsist during the lean seasons.

Gradually, various ways of preparing food were developed from the original method of simply
holding the item to be cooked over the fire or placing it in the fire. Food could be cooked on top of heated
stones and even in glowing embers. As soon as suitable containers could be found or fashioned, boiling,
stewing, and frying became regular ways of preparing food; and from primitive means of cooking food in
preheated vessels, the art of baking evolved.

Cooking actually led to the invention of suitable containers and other kitchen utensils, of braziers
(portable fires) for domestic heating, of grates, and finally of bellows, which were an improvement on the
original fan or blowpipe with which the fire was encouraged. It is clear from later documents and from
archaeological finds that many later industrial processes involving heat, such as metallurgy, pottery, and
brewing, used the accumulated experience of prehistoric cooking. In all early languages industrial
operations such as heating, drying, steaming, baking, and washing are indicated by terms derived from
the kitchen, and even in such a late growth as alchemical practice (which is hardly older than the eight
century B.C.), it is clear that not only the terms but also apparatus such as filters and water-baths were
originally kitchen equipment which was later adopted to chemical use.
Tending the fire required a suitable place in the middle of the hut or cave usually a mud-plastered,
walled spot, the hearth. This was the birthplace of pottery, for prehistoric man soon discovered how hard
the mud plaster became after being thoroughly heated. Also from the domestic hearth were developed
our kilns, ovens, and industrial furnaces of a later period.

Present evidence points to a fairly late emergence of the art of pottery. The oldest farming villages
of the Near East did not contain pots, but by the time of such early urban settlements as Jericho (6000
B.C.), pottery was known. The earliest pottery took the shape of the gourds it was designed to displace,
an early example of the tendency of inventors to adopt a natural form in attempting to replace a natural

The fuel used by prehistoric man was the most primitive kind. Dead branches, dry wood, and
shrubs were commonly used, but so was such low-grade material as dried bones. In the East, thorny
shrubs, withered sticks, twigs, and dried dung were cheap fuels, supplemented by straw and other
farming refuse as soon as agriculture was introduced. Only the mountain regions had sufficient firewood.
In later times this wood was made into charcoal for industrial purposes. For all ancient industrial
processes depended on charcoal, and this charcoal-burning (together with the herds of goats which
grazed in the barren mountain region) was responsible for the deforestation of the Mediterranean area in
antiquity. Much later, the Greek philosopher Plato (427-347 B.C.) deplored the disappearance of the
many forests of Athens due to charcoal-burning and ship-building.

Strangely enough, prehistoric man seldom used convenient outcroppings of coal and lignite. In
certain regions of Czechoslovakia, mammoth-hunters seem to have utilized local coal-outcrops for their
camp-fires, but this was an exception. By the time (500 B.C.-400 A.D.) of Classical antiquity, however,
peat and lignite were well known, although the burning of peat by the early inhabitants of the Low
Countries was considered a proof of barbarism and poverty by the Roman author Tacitus (55-117 A.D).
Coal came into more regular use in Roman Britain, but its use in earlier times is hypothetical. This limited
supply of second-grade fuel was a major deterrent to the development of industrial processes during the
whole of antiquity as well as for many centuries thereafter.

The use of fire also led to the introduction of illuminating devices. In certain cases threading a
wick through such oil-rich creatures as the stormy petrel or the candlefish provided a reasonable flame.
In most cases, however, the oil was first extracted from the animal or fish, and then the fish-oil, tallow, or
other type of fat was used in hollowed-out stone lamps, with a wick hanging over the rim or floating in the
middle of the oil. Such stone lamps were in use in Paleolithic times; a specimen was found in the
Lascaux caves of France, where it had served the prehistoric painters who decorated the walls there
some 12,000 years ago. Sometimes resinous splinters or torches were used. Later, pottery or metal
bowls were manufactured, multi-wick lamps being made by forming several spouts along the rim of the
bowl to hold more wicks. These gave more stable lighting than the splinter-lights or rush-lights (peeled
rushes often dipped in fat or grease to form a primitive candle), which were apt to give off sparks and
thus constituted a grave danger-spot in the house. Torches and tapers often consisted of bundles of
splinters or rush-lights, sometimes dipped in bitumen or resin. Along the coasts, shells were often used
as lamps, for the rim was naturally shaped to hold wicks. For centuries such open lamps were the only
form of lighting that mankind knew. Even after the advent of the candle, the vast majority of people
usually rose and went to bed with the sun, for oil for illuminating purposes was too expensive for people
who were merely eking out a living.


As foraging, hunting, and fishing began to provide a wide range of food supply, tool-making outgrew its
elementary stage. By 15,000 B.C. more differentiated and better tools were being made in Europe and
the Near East. The earlier technique had been to shape a stone tool by beating it against a hammerstone
or between a hammer and a stone anvil, but as more suitable stones for tool-making were found, flaking
techniques were more widely used. Flint, obsidian, or fine-grained lava could be used to produce flakes
by applying a stroke with a stone hammer or mallet at certain points of the surface at exactly the right
angle. Experience soon taught man to strike his nodule of flint in such a way that the form of the flake
detached had an accurately predetermined shape.

It was also possible to produce long narrow flakes or blades for other purposes. This could be
achieved by detaching the flakes by means of a wooden or bone punch struck by the mallet or
hammerstone. Thus a blade could be shaped into a tool with the two edges sliced down obliquely at one
end, forming a narrow chisel edge. This tool is called a burin, of which over twenty types were used by
the early nomadic food-gatherers. All these tools, whether hand axes, chopping tools, blades, or burins,
could be retouched by secondary flaking and by pressure-flaking (splitting off small flakes along the
cutting edge to make it more even) to produce a wide range of special tools for each
technical operation such as chopping, cutting, adzing, sawing, scraping, etc.

We must remember, however, that man did not use stone tools only. Unfortunately, remains of
the less durable materials such as wood, bone, and ivory have disappeared. Only under exceptional
circumstances, such as arise in the salt mines of Carinthia (Austria) or in swamps, do we find such
perishable objects as wooden shovels and composite tools consisting of flint pieces with handles, suchas
sickles. Nevertheless, the few objects found in prehistoric camps and settlements prove that bone tools
were in fact used. Splinters could be separated from bones to serve as needles and awls. Wood could be
worked by using flint scrapers for chisels, so as to produce dug-out canoes (6500 B.C.) and even, by the
end of the Stone Age, to produce primitive tenon (projection cut at the end of piece of material) and
mortise (hole cut in second piece to receive projection on first) joints for wooden objects. Antlers were
used as picks in the mining of flint by that time. Bone or wooden handles held small flint blades; spears
and arrows had hafted heads made of various materials. Hence at the beginning of the New Stone Age
(also known as the Neolithic Age, and lasting from about 8000 B.C. to 2500 B.C.) men already utilized a
considerable arsenal of specialized tools and weapons. Though our knowledge of these is based on the
relatively few examples which have survived, we often have remains of the finished products made with
their aid.


Good flaking stones that could be used for tools and weapons were not too common. Sometimes they
were found along the shore where chalk outcroppings had been worn away by the waves and previously
embedded nodules of flint had been washed onto the beaches. Flint nodules could also be found inland
at several surface locations in Europe and the Near East. The best materials, however, could only be
obtained by digging vertical shafts into the limestone to reach the stratum some 30 to 400 feet below the
ground which contained flint nodules with better flaking qualities. Prehistoric men probably knew where to
dig for flint, presumably by following surface outcroppings.

Many of these Stone Age flint mines have been discovered, and some have even yielded
skeletons of miners---with their tools---surprised by the crumbling of their" pipes" or shafts. From these
remains we get the impression that originally the tribesmen must have made seasonal excursions to such
sites to obtain the flint they needed. Only gradually, by the dawn of the Bronze Age (about 2500 B.C.),
did flint mining become a separate profession, with miners living on the spot year round and probably
fashioning flint tools to be traded by itinerant hawkers. The same must have happened in the case of the
harder, non-flaking stones like diorite and lava which, from Neolithic times onwards, were shaped by
grinding and polishing into completely new forms.

Another early product to be mined, apart from the ochres and other colored earths used as
pigments for decoration purposes, was salt. This ingredient became very important as man's changing
diet---extended by the art of cooking---provided him with more carbohydrates and as the percentage of
raw food and meat went down. The diminishing percentage of foodstuffs with a natural salt content had to
be supplemented by the addition of other salt. This was sometimes found as deposits of evaporated salt-
spray along the coasts, but it was usually obtained by the evaporation of saline waters from such springs
as those of the Halle region (Central Europe), or the mining of rock-salt strata, to be found fairly
frequently in the deserts of the Near East and the eastern Alps and Carpathians.


All these products---flint, hard stone for tools, and salt (usually traded in the form of "bricks"), together
with the semi-precious stones which the prehistoric tribesmen admired, as well as sea-shells from the
East---constituted the objects of trade over relatively long distances. We can still trace these trade routes
through the river valleys and over mountain passes from the mines to other settlements and even to the
coast by the discovery of the treasure and merchandise of peddlers who, when threatened by danger,
buried their possessions and often never recovered them.

This developing trade is just one of the signs that society was changing, and with it, technology.
For technology is a social product in this sense, that it is one of the interacting factors in a society, which
in those early days was still very much limited by its food supply pattern. Its tools and technology were
first of all aimed at the support and extension of this food supply, though other factors were also
important. Environment and available materials can limit the forms and extension of this technology, but
they cannot rob man of his ingenuity. Early food-gatherers and hunters devised a full range of tools
directed toward their foraging, hunting, and fishing; these tools have been classified as "crushers,"
"piercers," and "entanglers." Included among these were the spear and spear-thrower, the simple and
composite bow (typical of the hunter of herds), the arrowhead and harpoon, the blow-gun, lasso and
bolas, and fish hooks and traps, such as are still used by primitive tribes in Africa and South America.

Nor did the insecurity of daily subsistence prevent early man from creating and cultivating graphic
and plastic arts. This was partly because primitive superstition (itself a form of technology) believed that
one would be more successful in hunting and fishing if one could draw pictures of the objects for which
one hunted and fished. Perhaps also the aesthetic element---the instinct to adorn or beautify---lies deep
within man. Using natural pigments crushed in a mortar with pestle (and mixed with animal fats or water
in most cases), primitive man painted with his finger tips, brushes, or dry-point crayons. He engraved
tools and weapons on the walls of his caves with incised lines or pecking. He also sculpted. Rock or mud
were modeled in the round or in relief, and he used ivory, antler, and stone as well. Still, in these early
societies there was no specialization or division of labor, and full-time craftsmen were unknown. This
holds true even for the larger part of the Neolithic Age, when the gradual development of stock-breeding
and agriculture made life safer and more dependable.


Man gradually tamed such animals as roamed about his settlements or camps and which
sometimes may have been scavenging. By Magdalenian times (the late period, 17,000-8000 B.C., of the
Old Stone Age) the dog was already domesticated, and probably man had already tamed the first
reindeer, goats, and sheep. During the Neolithic Age (Late Stone Age) pigs and cattle joined the range of
domestic animals, the horse and the onager (wild ass) being tamed toward the end of that period. From
the remains of such tamed animals we may conclude that most domestic animals of Neolithic date had
already lost some of the physical characteristics of their wild ancestors and showed distinct traces of
domestication. Neolithic and Bronze Age man tamed such animals intentionally. The oldest Egyptian
wall-paintings show that even antelopes and gazelles were domesticated, possibly for economic
purposes, as their skins and the leather prepared from them were much prized.

The last phase of domestication was characterized by the dominance of such economic purpose.
Animals were bred because of their meat, hides, or milk, and man gradually acquired sufficient biological
experience to be able to produce more "specialized" animals, the products of which were refined by
various techniques. During the Neolithic Age (c.700 B.C.) we find more and more types of sheep, goats,
and cattle bred to suit man's needs. At the same time, the deforestation and cultivation of larger areas of
virgin soil began to cause extermination of wild species and to make the domesticated ones more
dependent on man's care.


Similar needs led to man's attempts to free himself from the limitations of vegetable food supplied by
nature in the wild state. He did not want to be dependent on roots and fruit only, but wanted regular
supplies of green vegetables, nuts and oil seeds, cereals, and condiments. In most cases it is impossible
to determine where or when such cultivated foodstuffs were first discovered and used. In the case of
cereals, however, it is fairly certain that they originated from the cultivation and cross-breeding or wild
grasses growing in Syria and the highlands to the North, that is, in the Fertile Crescent running from the
Egyptian border along the Arabian desert to the delta of the Euphrates and the Tigris.

From 8000 B.C. onwards, the Fertile Crescent played its role as the center of agriculture, whence
the knowledge of growing such improved foodstuffs spread to the Mediterranean region and Western
Europe. Although most of the cereal grains developed first in the Near East, Europe gave the world two
new cereals, oats and rye, which became important crops in Roman times. Rice did not come west from
the Orient until about 1000 B.C.

Men also began to cultivate intentionally such plants as flax and hemp and to use their fibers for
textiles and rope making; they also grew plants from which they could extract oils and dyestuffs. The
advent of agriculture brought more or less permanent settlements and tended to displace the earlier
nomadic way of life. Yet, in these early agricultural settlements there were still few traces of technological
specialization; every man had to be a jack-of-all-trades, and every homestead was virtually self-sufficient.
Only in a few mining centers do we find signs of craftsmen at work trading their products through

Agriculture stimulated technology in various ways. New tools were needed: the hoe, plow, harrow
to prepare and till the soil. Yet, during the thousands of years of prehistory, from the first stone tools to
the first stone tools to the first cities, technical progress, whether by discovery or by deliberate invention,
was very slow. The pace of this development is clearly demonstrated by the late invention of such a
simple agricultural tool as the flail, a device for threshing grain.

After the birth of agriculture, prehistoric man was faced with the problem of detaching the grains
from the dried heads of the wild grasses he cultivated and improved. He solved this problem by beating
sheaves of grain against the compacted mud floor or by spreading it out on the floor and beating it with
sticks. Sometimes he had the animals which he had domesticated tread on the grain; sometimes he used
the crushing effect of a threshing sledge, studded with flint or iron nails, on the grain spread out over the
threshing floor. Much later, even the Romans, with their large farms aiming at mass production of wheat
and other cereals, did not possess the flail. It was not until the fourth century in Gaul that the ingenious
combination of two hinged sticks produced the flail; yet the technical elements and the need for an
effective threshing device had already existed for millennia.


The coming of permanent settlements led to early forms of building. Earlier men had been satisfied with
simple windbreaks, seeking more permanent shelters such as caves only for longer stays. The earliest
European houses were tent-like constructions, often little more than roofed-over pits and hollows.
Gradually pole or frame constructions were developed, which led to more solid constructions made of
planks, turf, mud, and adobe. The advent of metal tools in the Bronze Age made possible the building of
log houses in the forest regions; while in the south the types of houses with a roofed front porch and a
room with a central fireplace prevailed. Long houses and religious buildings of various forms were also
erected, involving a more developed wood-work technology.

In the Near East the earliest farming villages consisted of sapling-supported mud huts, later with
wattle (woven branches or twigs) wall smeared with daub (mud). Building construction depended on the
local materials available. Reed huts were constructed in the lower river valleys, wooden houses where
timber was available. In Jarmo by 6500 B.C. compacted mud-walls were used and at Jericho we find


Technological developments during the Neolithic Age gradually led to a regular production of surplus
foodstuffs, which supported what has been called the "Urban Revolution." In the Near East after 600 B.C.
some farming villages slowly developed into urban centers dominating an agricultural area. Trade was no
longer in luxuries alone; the farmers brought their surplus grain and food to the city, where skilled, full-
time craftsmen traded the articles which they had produced for the food they needed. This was
particularly true after the urban centers began to move toward the river valleys, which were being drained
and cultivated but which could not provide the timber, metals, and minerals needed by the craftsmen.


Despite an increase in trade, transport was still very primitive. On the water, apart from rafts and inflated
skins carrying a timber deck (the keleks of Mesopotamia), there were baskets with a high rim and the
coracle (Arabic, quffa), a sort of raft made water-tight by a hide covering (in Assyria, by a coat of
bituminous mastic). Ships made of bundles of reeds were typical for the Nile Valley civilization. The
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, like those of prehistoric Europe, also used the dug-out canoe, the prototype
of later plank-built ships. Somehow they learned to avail themselves of the propulsive power of the wind,
and their little wooden ships circled Arabia and penetrated the Red Sea, where rock pictures show them
to have had square sails. Such ships later inspired the Phoenician ship-builders and became the
prototype of the Aegean galley. Despite these early adventurers, most early shipping was merely river
transport and seldom risked the dangers even of sailing along the coasts of the open seas.
The technological improvements of land transport was even slower. Early overland trade never
involved large volumes of goods, but for a very long time was limited to what men or pack animals could
carry on their backs. From 7000 B.C. onward, sledges were in use for heavy loads such as the stones
used for later prehistoric (Neolithic, the Late Stone Age, period monuments. The great megalithic
monument at Stonehenge, in England, shows the great feats of land and water transport possible even
with the most primitive means; its four-ton stones were carried over land and sea from quarries 150 miles
away, its thirty-ton stones were carried some 25 miles by sledge.
For a long time archaeologists have reasoned that such heavy stones must have been moved on
sledges placed on rollers and that the idea of the wheel probably derived from these rollers. It is doubtful,
however, if wheels evolved from rollers, and we still do not know where, when, and how the wheel was

On early tablets found at Uruk in Mesopotamia (3500 B.C.) we see pictures of sledges on four
wheels; a set of solid wheels with their axle were carved from a tree trunk, and the sledge was attached
to two such units. True wheeled vehicles, with the wheel rotating about the axle instead of being solidly
affixed to it, are not found until the days of the Sumerian royal tombs (after 3000 B.C.)


Starting as one of the members of the pirmate group, man possessed certain biological prerequisites for
technical progress: the capacity to manipulate with his hands and fingers, the ability to develop speech
for communication, and, somehow, a capacity for abstract thought. These had enabled him to develop
tools, which in turn enabled him to evolve further.

Although early man undoubtedly first utilized wooden and bone implements, only his stone tools
have survived the ravages of time, so human prehistory is divided among the Stone Ages (Eolithic,
Paleolithic, and Neolithic), with these tools improving in quality and usability over a long period of time.
Suddenly---as such things went in prehistoric times---in the fourth millennium B.C. (4000-3000 B.C.)
revolutionary changes took place in man's technology and hence his society.

Man had already discovered fire and had crude weapons. But in the thousand years preceding
3000 B.C. there was a spate of inventions and discoveries. The beginnings of agriculture allowed for
settled communities, and man changed from a nomadic hunter and parasite upon nature to become an
active partner with nature. He domesticated animals and developed agricultural tools. He made textiles
and produced pottery. He invented the wheel and the sail to improve his transportation. And, at the turn
of the millennium, he learned how to use and produce copper. Then came the most astonishing invention
of pre-history, an invention that divided the very epochs of ancient man.

The development of writing took place about 3500 B.C. The earliest documents were cuneiform
clay tablets, forming the archives of the administration of early Mesopotamian (Sumerian) temples. These
cuneiform tablets are typical of the way in which language and its earliest written expression, pictographs
(that is, ideas expressed in the form of visual pictures), developed. The "naming" of all natural things and
phenomena now finds its expression in the word lists (onomastica) in which words for all kinds of
animals, plants, minerals, and so forth, are arranged in groups which are supposed to be related in some
way. The Sumerian language of the ancient Mesopotamians being agglutinative (that is, forming words
by adding prefixes or suffixes to the root forms), it lent itself admirably to such groupings, achieving
something like the nature of modern organic chemistry (in which, for example, the addition of descriptive
prefixes to a root form such as "benzene" leads to words like "paradichlorbenzene"). Such lists, often
designating the objects by their external characteristics which had been observed, led to the "discovery"
of the "natural order of things"; they also aided budding scientists and craftsmen, for the lists were used
in teaching pupils how to read and write. The craftsmen used them to set down their experience and to
formulate the recipes and instructions they were gradually producing for technology, new terms being
formed and read with ease as necessity decidated.

Cuneiform writing consisted of wedge-shaped marks incised on wet clay, a material in which the
Tigris-Euphrates Valley abounded. When dried in the sun or baked in a fire, the clay tablets hardened,
and a permanent record was left. Almost at the same time the Nile Valley also witnessed the beginnings
of writing by brush dipped in ink or dye on papyrus formed by pressing and drying pithy reeds growing
near the Nile delta.
With the beginning of the written record---itself a triumph of technology---we pass from pre-
historical to historical times. But in prehistory technology had already provided mankind with the bases of
civilization: settled communities made possible through agricultural advance, a wide variety of tools,
domesticated animals, means of transportation such as the wheel and sail, and the beginnings of some
division of labor. Contemporaneous with the invention of writing was to be the beginning of metallurgy
and the accompanying change from the Stone Ages of man to the Copper Age and the Bronze Age in the
third millennium B.C.

With the beginnings of metallurgy, the Stone Age of man comes to an end; with the beginnings of
writing, prehistory comes to an end; with the beginnings of agriculture, man's parasitism on nature gives
way to co-operation with nature. Technology thus made possible the beginnings of civilization in the great
river valleys of the Near East, in Mesopotamia and Egypt.