The millions of years in which human beings appeared on the earth spread across the planet and advanced in organization and skills.
Language, religion, art, technology, farming, village communities, and other basic features of human existence began in prehistoric times.
The earliest development took place around 3000 b.c.
Complex social and economic structures, effective and lasting governments, compelling religious beliefs, impressive scientific and technical achievements, and sophisticated literary and artistic styles were all found in the Middle East.
From the first civilized peoples, civilization spread to less advanced ones.
civilized peoples did not do all the work in this process.
Less advanced people had to be wealthy to be worth the trouble of trading with or conquering civilized people.
Less advanced peoples were often skilled and powerful enough to conquer their neighbors, but that also brought them under the influence of civilization.
Less advanced peoples were so active in adopting civilized ways of life that they often brought with them something of their own.
As civilization spread, it was also liable to change.
There was an international civilized world with many local versions of Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilization.
There was no reason for civilization to stop at the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
The crisis was larger, more advanced, and more expansive than before.
The Phoenicians explored and traded with the less advanced lands and peoples of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Middle East was united under the rule of the Assyrians and Persians.
Empire builders might fall as well as rise, but by 300 b.c.
After 1200 b.c., the Jews became prominent in the civilized world, which led to the rise of monotheism.
Their disasters in the power struggles of the era strengthened their belief in one God and in themselves as his Chosen People.
Many of the features of later monotheistic religions were already part of the beliefs and practices of Judaism by 300 b.c.
Humans are latecomers in relation to more ancient life forms and the age of the planet.
The human-to-earth time relationship can be grasped through a drastic reduction in the time scale.
The time that elapsed before the appearance of humans is twenty-three hours and fifty-eight minutes if we reduce the age of the earth to the period of our familiar twenty-four-hour day.
As we look back through those thousands of centuries, an answer takes form.
The creation of civilization was an extraordinary creation by one species, and it was not a chance.
Human beings were able to take the first important steps towards civilization after completing a series of successful responses to the environment.
The invention of writing was a key step.
The dividing line between "historic" and "prehistoric" was established by written language.
We will first look at the long prehistoric period, from the first appearance of human beings to the dawn of civilization.
To discover the origins of humans, we need to identify them as a biological type.
The brain of today's species is four times larger than that of the great apes.
Criteria other than brain size may be used to classify and compare advanced biological types.
The use of tools is a product of intelligence.
Humans are clearly superior to apes in terms of conception, fashioning, and employing tools.
The ability to make tools was important in the struggle for survival because humans are weak and often unfriendly in natural environments.
Small in size (except for their brains), humans have used tools, as well as countless other devices such as weapons, vehicles, machinery, and buildings, as extensions of their mental and physical being--as ever more powerful levers for subduing competitors, constructing worlds of the imagination.
The stock of devices at the disposal of the human race has increased over time thanks to this persistent inventiveness.
In the social and economic realm, in government, politics, and warfare, and even in culture and the arts, have taken place a greater or lesser extent under the impact of this progress in technology.
It is fitting that the past ages of human beings have been identified and classified according to the development of materials used for making tools, as determined by excavation of early human remains and the tools found alongside them.
Standard methods of dating such remains include investigating the geological stratum in which they are found or subjecting them to laboratory tests that reveal their approximate age.
The Old Stone (Paleolithic) Age is the earliest prehistoric period.
The earliest human types used tools made of stone.
Stone tools became more and more specialized for different tasks until 8000 b.c., when the birth of civilization in the middle east tasks began.
Evidence shows that the earliest humanlike species was in East Africa.
The eastern tip of Asia and Alaska were linked by a "land bridge" at that time to pioneer the human colonization of the Americas.
The color of the skin and the shape of various external physical features form the basis of the present-day distinctions among whites, blacks, orientals, and other races.
The total genetic variations among human populations are not represented by these racial differences.
Whites from eastern Europe have more genes in common with blacks than with whites from western Europe.
Compared to other species, the genetic variations among human beings are small, amounting to only minor differences within a single subspecies.
They usually combine into small groups of twenty to thirty.
These groups built shelters in caves or huts, with room for storing their tools and provisions.
Observation of hunting and gathering societies that have survived into recent times suggests that there was a rough equality between males and females due to food-acquiring methods and child-rearing practices.
Women would have been responsible for gathering plants and the technologies required to store them and prepare them for eating, and men would have been responsible for hunting as well as the manufacture of tools and weapons that were needed for killing and butchering animals.
There would have been few and far between pregnancies.
The images of rhinoceroses and a panther were painted about 25,000 years ago.
People had their dwellings, but they would only have seen these pictures on special occasions.
The painters did not hunt the beasts they depicted, but perhaps they saw them as powerful beings and the images were used in worship.
The paintings must have been very important because of the layers of paint.
Playing an equal part with men in ensuring the survival of the group, and with few children to take care of, women probably enjoyed much the same status and power within the hunting and gathering bands as men did.
There is no way of knowing when and how this means of communication came into use.
It was very useful to humans in hunting, fighting, and other cooperative enterprises.
The creation of abstract ideas such as guardian spirits, magic, and life after death depended on language.
The period after 8000 b.c.
was named after it because of the change in techniques brought about by accelerated toolmaking skills.
Human social organization and way of life were altered by the advances in toolmaking.
The birth of civilization in the middle east shifted the patterns of existence of a large portion of the human species.
The creation of agricultural villages and the growth of more organized community relations resulted from this giant step, which involved the cultivation of plants, the taming of animals, and the breeding of both so as to adapt them to human needs.
Humans no longer lived in the wild as a result of the Agricultural Revolution.
Increased security and stability was brought to individuals and groups by this change.
With nature's help, it increased the supply of food and other commodities.
There was a steep rise in actual and potential population.
At the close of the Old Stone Age, there were probably no more than four million humans on the planet.
The first agricultural revolution in the world began in the Middle East.
It was conditioned by geological and climatic changes.
The most recent ice sheet, which had covered much of Europe after 70,000 b.c., began to melt and withdraw around 10,000 b.c.
The glaciers retreated more or less to their modern limits by 8000 b.c.
Europe and North Africa were left cold and rainy.
The inhabitants of places with fertile soil and a good water supply were able to cultivate crops.
Similar opportunities have existed before.
The combination of mental capacity, tools, and will allowed humans to make a successful response.
Grasses with seeds flourished in the Middle East.
The women of hunting and gathering bands would have collected and stored the grains and then watched the seeds fall to the ground and grow into plants.
The seeds of the plants that grew the best would be put back into the soil, where they would be easier to harvest.
The first deliberately bred grain crops were wheat and barley.
Stone-bladed hoes were used to break the soil for seeding and flint-edged shears were used to cut the seeds from the stalks.
Domestication of animals was linked to crop production.
The men of hunting bands used wild dogs to help them find and kill prey.
With the Agricultural Revolution, sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle became more important because they did not need to be hunted as a source of food and then as providers of wool, skins, and milk.
Humans began to use the strength of large animals in agriculture and transportation at the end of Neolithic times.
The first animals to be used in this way were oxen, which were castrated to make them un aggressive and responsive to training.
Common cultural features, peaceful and warlike contacts, and trade by land and sea are what link civilized ways of life in these regions.
Selecting and training animals were not enough.
It was necessary to invent devices that would make their strength available for transporting people and goods, and for tilling the ground.
The wheel, first used in the grassland on the borders of Europe and Asia, and the plow, which is first known to have existed among the villagers of Neolithic Europe, appeared around 3500 b.c.
With the development of the plow, which turned over the soil for seeding faster and more thoroughly than hoes, cereals like wheat and barley became the main food source for larger populations.
Along with farming and the domestication of animals there arose a whole range of new technologies to make the products of the fields and pastures fit for human use.
The items of food, clothing, and equipment that we take for granted today were first used by the early farmers of the Middle.
The Agricultural Revolution was one of the most important eras of technological advancement in human history because of how many complex operations are involved in turning wheat into bread or the wool of a sheep into a garment.
Looking after crops and animals requires more or less permanent settlements within easy reach of field and pasture.
The consequences of the Agricultural Revolution were far reaching.
The village with two or three hundred inhabitants needed more control and organization than the earlier hunting packs of twenty to thirty people.
The authority likely rested with the elders and village chiefs.
The farmlands were likely to have been worked on.
Since individual and community survival depended on closely coordinated efforts, the lives of the villagers would have been regulated by complex systems of tradition and custom.
Changes in the division of labor between men and women may have accompanied the Agricultural Revolution.
The reason for these changes was that agriculture could feed many more people than hunting and gathering and needed many more people as laborers; it also shortened the period of breast-feeding by providing foods that young children could eat, thereby causing women to become pregnant at shorter intervals than before.
The amount of time and effort that women had to put into getting pregnant, giving birth, and rearing their children was far more than in earlier times, and this would have had the effect of limiting them to a new sphere of activity that had itself come into existence along with settled village life.
Women focused on tasks that could be accomplished in and around the home and which could be combined with looking after children.
Garden cultivating, the care of barnyard animals, all phases of food preparation from grain grinding to cooking, and the crafts of yarn spinning and cloth weaving were included.
tending to field crops and herd animals, most kinds of skilled crafts, and trade, as well as politics, government, and war, were all done by men.
The changes in the division of labor between women and men that began with the rise of industrial society in recent times made this pattern a basic fea ture of most societies.
The division of labor was never easy.
It could be broken down by emergencies, such as the death of a male or female member of a household.
Cloth weaving became a male occupation as it could shift over time.
The upperclass women of later civilized societies who became rulers of kingdoms and empires were always able to break through the barrier.
The distinction between "men's work" and "women's work" continued, and perhaps because it placed the main responsibility for the survival of the household and for community affairs on men, it gave them power over women of a kind that they may not have had before.
Values, customs, and laws relating to the relationships of women and men would vary greatly from place to place.
The variations are usually within a framework of female dependence on males.
Food production was related to religious beliefs and rituals.
Humans used to respect animal spirits while hunting.
The fruitful Great Mother brought forth the harvest as a farmer.
Priests came into being to seek the favor of the Great Mother.
Farmers and herders revered many spirits and deities.
The sun and moon's movements provided a visible and regular calendar, and a calendar is indispensable for the accurate timing of plantings and harvests.
The sun, through its rising and setting, and yearly movement across the various constellations, made it possible to reckon the days, seasons, and years; the moon, through its phases, enabled people to keep track of passing weeks and months.
The early sky watchers noticed that the roughly twenty-nine days it takes the moon to go through its phases don't correspond to the roughly year it takes the sun to return to the same position in a particular constellation.
The problem of adjusting the months so that they would stay in step with the seasons was the first scientific endeavor.
The Neolithic peoples of Europe were the first to adapt wheat and barley to the cooler and wet conditions of Europe.
In Africa, tropical Asia, and eventually also the Americas, separate agricultural revolutions based on local crops such as yams, rice, corn, and potatoes brought settled village life to the humans of those regions as well.
In this way, the small agricultural community, with its farms, established routines, watchful priests, and dependence of women on men, became the typical way of life of the human race throughout much of the world.
This way of life was the same for thousands of years even after many changes in farming methods, customs and traditions.
It is still found in many parts of the world today.
The rise of the first true civilizations was prepared by the Neolithic villages.
This wasn't a simultaneous worldwide development.
The prehistoric society of farmers and villagers has never evolved into an advanced civilization.
The birth of civilization in the middle east seems to require a stimulating combination of advantages and difficulties, which are only encountered at certain times and places.
There must be favorable conditions of soil and climate that allow primitive farming to be productive, but there must also be difficulties and problems in exploiting these conditions, which force people to develop new technical and cultural abilities.
The most well-known ravines of civilization are the river valleys of the Middle East about 3500 b.c., where the earliest known civilizations arose; northern India and northern China about a thousand years later; and the plains, forests, and mountain valleys.
The Western civilization of modern times is descended from the early civilizations of the Middle East: those of Mesopotamia and Egypt.
Mesopotamia and Egypt emerged at the same time.
They lasted down to the beginning of the Christian era, leaving a massive inheritance of cultural achievement, technical and scientific knowledge, and religious belief that has influenced many subsequent civilizations down to the present day.
Archaeologists dug up ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt's cities and deciphered their writing systems and languages after they were lost for hundreds of years.
The recorded history now goes back to the beginning of the earliest known civilizations.
In the case of Mesopotamia, it is possible to reconstruct how civilization came about.
The scene of this momentous development was a vast plain stretching between two great rivers of the Middle East.
After the Agricultural Revolution began, Mesopotamia and the region surrounding it had many prosperous villages.
The southernmost part of Mesopotamia, where the twin rivers ran close to each other before entering the gulf, was where the leap to civilization began.
The land was flat, marshy, and open to disastrous floods.
The summers were hot and humid.
Local farmers relied on irrigation to live here.
The villagers diverted the water from the river to their fields and palm groves because they were the most productive in the Middle East.
Because of the size of the rivers, there weren't many places in Mesopotamia where the water could be used for irrigation.
A change in the local climate about 3500 b.c.
began the rise to civilization.
Less water flowing through them made it easier to harness for irrigation.
The effects were dramatic.
Around 3000 b.c., the population of this area expanded tenfold.
Many new villages were founded, some older villages grew into small towns, and a few of the towns grew still further.
Technical innovation, cultural development, and more complex social organization came with growing population and wealth.
As the landscape continued to dry out, the wealth and population stopped growing.
The waters never retreated far enough to make city life impossible.
New problems were responded to with new solutions.
They built large-scale irrigation systems.
They began intensive warfare for control of scarcer resources.
Governments were able to plan and organize these undertakings.
Growing up in southern Mesopotamia, a new kind of society that was more advanced than the older one, made it one of the world's first true civilizations.
The people who created the new civilization in the southern part of Mesopotamia are known as the Sumerians.
They seem to have arrived in southern Mesopotamia sometime after 3500 b.c., conquering or absorbing the earlier inhabitants.
It is possible that they came from somewhere in central Asia, and that they were attracted to their new homeland by its growing wealth and fertility as the environment there began to change.
Each of the growing cities in the region became the seat of government for a surrounding area of villages and countryside.
The ruins of many of these cities have been excavated in recent times, with spectacular discoveries of buildings and works of art.
The southern part of Mesopotamia was controlled by the Sumerians for over a thousand years.
They shaped the basic ideas and institutions that would become the models for civilization throughout Mesopotamia and later, Europe.
There was a need for social direction, regulation, and discipline as the population grew.
Initially, this was done by a specialized priesthood.
The power of the priests came from their status as servants of the gods and goddesses, as the Sumerians believed that the survival of their communities depended on them.
The birth of civilization in the middle east new resources to the service of the gods and goddesses increased the power and wealth of the priests and priestesses as these communities became more prosperous and powerful.
They were not limited to matters of ritual and belief.
They were responsible for the creation of large temples to house the gods and goddesses, as well as the management of vast properties, the introduction of technological innovations, and the creation of writing.
The process of social, technical, and cultural innovation was led by the priesthood.
As the waters retreated and resources became scarcer, there was a new group of leaders who were based on military might rather than religious belief.
As the landscape became more dry, the cities of Sumer became more attractive to gangs of bandits and wandering peoples, and the Sumerians fought among themselves over land claims and water rights.
As the competition for resources grew more intense, so did the warfare between the cities and foreign peoples.
The armies and soldiers appeared in each city.
Military chiefs won power and rewards when they were defenders of their communities.
By 2500 b.c., the military leaders had come to be called "kings," with power not only in war but also in the peacetime governance of the cities.
Their relationship with the priests was one of partnership and competition.
The kings built temples and took a leading part in temple rituals in order to make sure that the gods supported them.
They built palaces for themselves and taxed the people.
Palace and temple have been the dual houses of social power in almost every civilization.
In this way, each major city of Sumer acquired its own government and armed forces, independent of others.
The priests, kings, and the artisans and soldiers who they employed all depended on the farmers for their food.
The farmland surrounding most cities was divided into two parts, one for the temple priests and another for the king.
The tenant farmers who worked on one of these sections received a share of the crop for their labors, but the rest went to the other groups or into storehouses from which the community could draw in times of famine or siege.
The farmers were prosperous enough to purchase pottery, textiles, and tools manufactured by skilled artisans; some became craftsmen themselves, employed in temples and palaces to produce tools, weapons, works of art, and other articles for use by the priests and rulers.
In exchange for commodities that the city lacked, others turned to commerce, shipping surplus produce beyond the city.
Some people who had fallen into heavy debt sold themselves and their children as payment for debt and labored as domestic servants for fixed periods of time.
They shared this form of slavery with war captives.
One of the main features that distinguishes civilized from primitive societies is the division of labor and the specialization of social functions.
The system of ranks of prestige, authority, and power was developed out of this.
The king, the high priests, and their principal officers and agents acted in the name of the city's goddess.
The private men of wealth were the great landowners and merchants.
The commoners were mostly farmers and a small number of free craftsmen.
The slaves were considered to be the property of their masters.
The roles of authority and prestige that women would fill in many subsequent civilized societies were given to them as Sumerian society grew more complex and sophisticated.
The temple rituals of male gods were an important part of the religion.
King's wives administered large estates, as well as wealthy female landowners.
The priestesses and wealthy women occupied specialized niches within a general structure of female subordination.
Unlike the priests of goddesses, the priestesses of Sumer did not have power outside the temples.
With the development of writing, there was a new area of civilized life from which women seem to have been mostly excluded.
Advances in social and political organization were accompanied by progress in technology.
In ancient times, civilized societies had no monopoly on technical inventiveness, and the Sumerians benefited greatly from a series of epoch-making innovations, which changed the ways of life of many societies across Asia, Africa, and Europe from about 3500 b.
The wheel and plow were included.
Early written documents show that the use of Sumer was widespread by 3000 b.c.
The development of metalworking changed the way tools and weapons are made.
People living in the mountains of Mesopotamia learned to use loose pieces of copper that they found on the ground.
They created a variety of useful articles by hammering the metal.
The tools made of copper are soft and the supply of pure copper was limited.
The first breakthrough was about 4,000 b.c.
A further discovery was that copper and tin could be blended to make a stronger metal.
New processes of working the metals also had to be devised, such as casting, in which molten metal is poured into molds to make articles of the desired shape.
The problems were solved by 3000 b.c.
The lands of western Asia, northern Africa, and eastern Europe entered the Bronze Age.
The general adoption of iron tools and weapons after 1000 b.c.
made bronze the king of metals.
One of the world's first systems of writing was created by the Sumerians, who were also responsible for another great invention.
The earliest written documents were from about 3100 b.c.
The wealthy and powerful Sumerian priesthood would have been well aware of the need for direction and control, which is why writing was developed in response to them.
Before the rise of civilization, Neolithic villagers used a simple record keeping system based on clay counters with drawings of objects, such as sheep or bales of cloth, scratched into them.
The system of counters developed into something much more sophisticated in the Sumerian temples, which had more property to keep track of and a greater need for detailed records.
Some of the symbols came to be used as ideograms, or symbols for ideas, such as "life", while others were adapted to become phonograms, which stood for the sounds of words or syllables.
The new symbols were written on their own small counter.
Instead, any desired combination of symbols was scratched with a piece of reed or stylus into a larger piece of clay.
The dried tablet was used to record complicated transactions.
The system outgrew its original purpose as a result of all the improvements.
A writer could make a visual statement not just of business dealings but also of what was said.
Writing can express any human thought or feeling.
Cuneiform writing was hard to learn and clumsy.
Professional sholders had to master hundreds of symbols and the delicate skill of imprinting them on moist clay to practice writ ing.
The practice of writing was so valuable that other people in the Middle East borrowed the symbols and adapted them to their own languages.
After the beginning of the Christian era, the main vehicle of communication in the Middle East fell out of use.
The invention of writing resulted in the creation of written laws.
The customary rules and practices of early Sumerian society were the first to appear.
The Egyptian writing system, which dates from about the same time period as that of Sumer, is discussed in the book.
By 2500 b.c., most city-states had begun to assemble codes of accumulated law.
The universe and humanity were the focus of law and life in Sumer.
Civic order, maintained by human authority, was seen as part of universal order.
The God of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths were not the only deities the Sumerians believed in.
It's believed that powerful living beings, friendly and hostile, caused the workings of nature.
The rise of civilization is thought to have started the two other characteristics of Sumerian religion.
A dozen or so great gods and goddesses were considered to excel all the others in power and holiness, because they were considered to be humanlike in character and appearance.
Review flashcards and saved quizzes
Getting your flashcards
You're all caught up!
Looks like there aren't any notifications for you to check up on. Come back when you see a red dot on the bell!