From the Paleolithic Era to the Age of Agriculture
Homo sapiens emerged about 300,000 years ago in regions of Africa
By 1200 nearly every major land mass excluding Antarctica had human presence
Human history begins with the Paleolithic era also known as the Old Stone Age which represents 95 percent of the amount of time humankind has occupied the planet
Paleolithic people formed small scale societies of 25-50 people
This groups were very mobile and nomadic and depended on wild plants and animals
Life expectancy was very low(35 years) and population growth was slow
Cultural creativity was reflected in cave paintings and sculptures.
This period of time was followed by the Agricultural Revolution.
This process unfolded separately in Asia, Africa and the Americas
It was highlighted by the deliberate cultivation of plants and the taming and breeding of animals
It directly lead to growing populations, settled villages, and a boom of technological innovation
In areas where farming was difficult, nomads who made up pastoral societies relied on domesticated animals(sheep, goats, horses, camels) to harvest meat hide and for transport and warfare.
These societies were prominently found in Asia and parts of Africa.
There was often conflict between nomadic herders and their farming neighbors as pastoral societies were attracted to the wealth of agrarian societies and sought access to their rich farming lands.
there also a cured a peaceful exchange of ideas that enriched both societies
permanently settled farming villages were another kind of society to emerge from the agricultural revolution
In some cases agricultural village societies would be organized politically as chiefdoms in which positions of power would be inherited
The earliest civilizations emerge Mesopotamia Mesopotamia, egypt, and in areas of Peru
By 1200 a considerable majority of humankind will live in one or another of the civilizations
Civilization refer to societies based it in cities and governed by states
Civilizations were a direct product of the agricultural revolution because only a productive agricultural economy could support a society in which many people did not produce their own food
Civilizations lead to states, governing structures organized around cities and territories that were usually controlled by kings or other ranked officials
Civilizations created many different kinds of occupations: scholars, merchants, priests, officials, scribes, soldiers, etc.
Gender equality worsened as the patriarchy took hold and ideas of male superiority were spread in the values of almost all civilizations
Civilizations were accompanied by artistic, scientific, and technological innovation ex:
Chinese bureaucracy and silk products, gunpowder
Islamic advances in mathematics, medicine, astronomy
Civilizations and the Environment
Civilizations tend to be shaped by the environment in which they developed
Larger populations lead to intensive agriculture which would leave a bigger impact on the landscape
Rigorous irrigation in southern Mesopotamia lead to white soil by 2000 BC E
Other examples followed around the world such as extensive deforestation and soil erosion
Civilizations differed and how their societies are structure
For example Chinese civilization give the highest ranking to an elite Barack receive that was selected based on their performance in examinations
India social system give priority to religious status and it forbid members of different castes to join together
Slaves were generally at the bottom of all social hierarchies
The patriarchy was also a common component in the social life of all civilizations but it did vary from place to place
And example would be the difference between the patriarchy of Athens to that of Sparta
Civilizations also differed in the range and extent of their influence
Civilizations and Cultural Traditions
Cultural traditions were important in providing a common identity for civilizations
Cultural differences made inequalities legitimate but those inequalities also lead movements that challenged those in power
Religion enabled millions to justify their suffering and helped many give meaning to the difficult lives they lead
South Asian Cultural Traditions
Hinduism is the oldest and most prominent religion in India
Unlike Christianity and Islam, Hinduism had no founder and developed as an integral part of Indian civilization
Hinduism did not seek converts but was instead associated with a particular people and territory
Hinduism consisted of a vast amount of gods, spirits, beliefs, practices, and rituals
The Upanishads were a series of texts written between 800 and 400 BCE and were in summary, a unified understanding of reality itself from the point of view of Hinduism
A fundamental understanding of this philosophy was that the individual human soul was part of the Brahman and that the chief goal of humankind was to achieve union with Brahman
This goal was achieved through living many lifetimes through reincarnation
The law of karma said that the actions in one lifetime would determine the station of life of the next lifetime
South Asian Cultural Traditions: Buddhism
Buddhism emerged at around the same time philosophical Hinduism was emerging
The founder, Siddhartha Gautama, was a prince from a small kingdom in north India
After an encounter with human suffering, he set off on a quest for enlightenment in which he became the Buddha, the man who had awakened.
In summary, he believes that suffering was a direct result of desire and that in order to live a peaceful life, one had to pronounce human weakness and desire in order to reach nirvana
While Buddhist teaching did reflect some Hindu traditions such as karma and rebirth, it also sharply challenged the idea of God as well as the Hindu based caste system
Theravada Buddhism portrayed the Buddha as a wise teacher but not divine
Mahayana Buddhism later developed and offered a greater accessibility to a spiritual path
Original Buddhism had put a premium on spiritual wisdom, while this later development believed enlightenment was available to everyone
Mahayana Buddhism took root in Central Asia, China, Japan, Korea, southeast Asia, and elsewhere, becoming the first major tradition to spread widely outside of its homeland
Tibet Buddhism gave special authority to teachers known as Lamas and emphasized an awareness of death as well as preparation for death
By 1200 Buddhism had almost vanished from India but was expanding in other parts of Asia
This is largely a result of the bhakti movement which involved devotion to several of India’s many gods and goddesses.
It began in South India and begin moving northward between 600 and 1300 CE
The most popular deities were Vishnu (protector and preserver of creation) and Shiva (represented the Divine)
Bhakti practice outlined that through good deeds, simple living, and rituals of devotion individuals could find salvation
Chinese Cultural Traditions: Confucianism
Confucianism derived from Confucian, a learned aristocrat who believe that in order to reach social and political harmony respect had to be applied to unequal relationships ex: father and son, husband and wife, the older brother and younger brother, ruler and subject
He believed the key was education specifically language, literature, philosophy, and ethics
Ritual and ceremonies were also important because they conveyed the rules of appropriate behavior
Confucianism became the official ideology of the Chinese state by the Han dynasty which was around 200 B.C.E.
Confucianism establish certain expectations for superior parties: emperors should keep taxes low administer justice and provide for the people or else natural disaster, famine, or rebellion would follow
This translated to the level of family: husbands to deal kindly with their wives and children in order to not provoke conflict in disharmony.
Confucius did not deny the reality of gods and spirits but told his followers to conduct family and state rituals as if the spirits were watching
Chinese Cultural Traditions: Daoism
Daoism ridiculed the efforts of Confucianism and urged withdrawing into the world of nature and encouraged behavior that was spontaneous, individualistic, and natural
Emphasized simplicity in living, small self-sufficient communities, limited government, and the abandonment of education
Elite Chinese believe that Taoism complemented Confucianism, an outlook that was facilitated by the ancient Chinese concepts of Yin and Yang
Thus, one might pursue Confucianism during the day but behave in a more Daoist fashion in the evening
Middle Eastern Cultural Traditions: Judaism and Christianity
Judaism, Christianity and Islam are often known as Abrahamic Faiths because all of them believe in the biblical character called Abraham.
All also affirmed a distinctly monotheistic face with an idea of a supreme deity or divine presence
The earliest of these traditions was Judaism which was born among the Hebrews, also known as Jews
They believe in a God who was a powerful and jealous deity who commanded their exclusive loyalty
They also believed in Jewish prophets such as Isaiah, Amos, and Jeremiah
Jesus of Nazareth began a small career of teaching and healing before he got in trouble with local authorities and was executed. This small story which was barely noted in historical records became the basis of the world's most widely practiced religion.
Jesus inherited from his Jewish tradition an intentional devotion to a single personal deity, with whom he was on intimate terms referring to him as father.
Jesus’ teaching had a sharp social and political edge because he spoke on the behalf of the poor and the oppressed and criticized the powerful
Jesus did not intend to establish a new religion but rather to revitalize Jewish tradition, however Christianity soon emerged as a separate faith
Christianity spread within the Roman empire and beyond, and it developed an elaborate hierarchical organization with patriarchs, bishops, and priests
The Bishop of Rome gradually emerged as the dominant leader, or pope of the church
By 600 the Christian world was geographically extensive as well as politically and theologically very diverse
Middle eastern cultural traditions: Islam
Islam emerged from the land of pastoral people that also contain some regions of settled agricultural communities
Muhammad Ibn Abdullah was a trader from Mecca.
He was troubled by religious corruption and social inequalities and he often took periods of withdrawal into the mountains outside of the city, there he had a powerful religious experience that left him convinced that he was Allah’s messenger to the Arabs and that he was to bring the Quran down from Allah
Mohammed saw himself as the last of a line of earlier prophets, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus
The umma was the just and moral society of Islam that replace tribal identities where women too had an honored and spiritually equal place
After Mohammed‘s death(632 CE) Islam split into the Sunni and Shia branches over a disagreement over who should succeed him.
The Sunnis believed that the Caliph should be chosen through a decision by the community while Shias believed that it should be someone who was related to Muhammad
Shia muslims saw themselves as the minority and they felt that history had taken a wrong turn
After 900 or so any political unity that Islamic civilization had had vanished
The ulama were responsible for transmitting the beliefs and practices of Islam
This included the Quran, the sayings of Mohammed, grammar and rhetorical, sometimes philosophy, theology, mathematics, medicine, and above all else law
The Sufis had a different understanding of Islam and they viewed the success of Islamic civilization as a distraction and a deviation from the spirituality of Mohammed‘s time
They emerged by 1000 and they represented Islam’s mystical dimension and they sought a direct and personal experience of the Divine
Sufism pursued and interior life seeking to tame the ego and achieve spiritual union with Allah
Sufism felt the ulama was compromised and they challenged their religious authority
Interactions and Encounters
Silk Roads begin around 200 B.C.E. and were a complex system linking China and the Mediterranean world
Sea Roads traversed the Indian ocean in the South China Sea and linked the diverse people living between southern China and east Africa
Sand Roads linked north Africa in the Mediterranean world with the people of interior west Africa