Month: December 2016

Neolithic Revolution

The Neolithic Revolution

Approximately 10,000 years ago, peopleĀ  discovered an ability their predecessors had not known. They learned how to cultivate their food, instead of finding it in the wild.

In the Middle East, food (mostly grains) and hunt was plentiful. People could find years’ supply of food in only weeks, so there was no need to have a regular nomadic lifestyle in which people would constantly travel. Since their homes stayed in the same place for decades, people transformed their camps into villages. This new way of living allowed the hunter-gatherer groups to grow and prosper, making tribes that once might have had one family grow into a community of hundreds of different people. This had happened for thousands of years in the Middle East.

As the world’s climate changed, so did the landscape of the Middle East. It became more arid, resulting in less wild food, which in turn decreased the population of animals to hunt. With a significant drop in food, people had few choices to survive: they could either return to the nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors and travel to a place with more of an abundance of food, or discover a new way of getting enough sustenance. This choice caused the development of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent, the area where agriculture was first used.
Neolithic Revolution

In the beginning, space was made for farming by chopping down trees and removing brush, afterward setting the remnants ablaze. The farmer would then plant seeds with a hoe. After many years of producing food on one patch of land, the farmer would move to another with more nutrition and repeat the same process. Over thousands of years, hunter-gatherer people had learned about the plants they ate. They discovered which seeds would grow more food, and by only growing the better seeds (known as selective breeding), it led to more bountiful plants overall as the traits of the better seeds were passed down. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle was virtually eliminated in areas with farming, as crops could not be left untended for long.

Although communities grew and their cultures development during this time, there would be no state authorities for many thousands of years. Societies were instead linked by ancestry. People would live with others of the same ancestry and share their food and possession with those who didn’t have enough. This was noted in many Native American Tribes who had similar lifestyles as early farming people in the Middle East. They would share food with others who were hungry, without asking for anything in return.

In hunter-gatherer lives, children were harder to raise. They constantly needed to be cared for by their mothers, being carried around wherever they went. As parents could only take care of one child at a time, the world’s population remained small. But with a different village life, mothers could have help from other family members, and they also did not need to carry their children wherever they went. This resulted in a population growth in agricultural communities. Although it grew at a small rate of 0.1% every year, the world’s population quadrupled over then next 2,000 years.

Source:

A People’s History of the World by Chris Harman

Sahelanthropus tchadensis

Prehistory

Members of the Hominini Tribal Classification evolved differently than others mammals and members of the Hominidae Family. They evolved to be adaptable and intelligent. One trait that most Hominidae had were hands that allowed for grasping objects. But unlike other Hominidae, the Hominini could walk upright. This was revolutionary, as the Hominini could travel long distances without getting as tired as other animals. But they also lost traits that other animals had to protect themselves, such as claws, and big teeth. Unlike most Hominidae, climbing trees became difficult as they grew in size and their foot shape changed.

Sahelanthropus tchadensis
Skull cast of the Sahelanthropus Tchadensis, possibly the earliest member of the Hominini.

Eventually part of the Hominini evolved into different genera, including the Homo Genus. The Homo Genus continued to split into different species. The traits they had gained allowed them to spread across the world. This was made easy with the ability to walk upright, as they were able to travel long distances and traverse differing landscapes. Approximately 200,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens evolved from the Homo Genus. From Africa, Homo Sapiens spread across the world, interacting with other members of the Homo Genus.

In early hunter-gatherer societies, people needed to work together to survive. Alone, humans weren’t nearly as tough as other animals in the wilderness. They were relatively slow, they had small teeth and no claws, and no natural armor. This forced people to band together and form nomadic tribes. They would hunt and forage on a patch of land until food ran dry. Then they would move on to another area, continuing this pattern for their whole lives.

In nomadic societies, men and women usually had different jobs. The men mostly hunted. When they found animals, the hunters used weapons such as bows and arrows to overpower their prey as easily as possible. Sometimes women and children would help by scouting or acting as distractions while hunters would sneak up upon their soon-to-be food. Using language, they told others where to be and what to do at the right time, when to attack or move back.

Women mostly acted as foragers and scavengers, searching for berries, fruit, and small animals. Foraging was essential in a hunter-gatherer community, as it provided a large majority of food. When hunters didn’t have luck finding any hunt, foraging provided them with a sustainable amount of food. During the day, people would go out and search for small animals and berries. Once food was found, they would use baskets formed from tree bark to carry it to their camp. Women would also take care of the children in their tribe.

Unlike today, there was no ruler or head of the tribes in hunter-gatherer societies. Anyone who worked to sustain their group had an equal say in important decisions, such as when to move camp or who would join or leave their tribe. This created a sense of egalitarianism in the nomadic societies. Everyone was treated equally, no matter their sex or race.

Source:

A People’s History of the World by Chris Harman