Scientists believe that humans first appeared over two millions years ago. The first humans were wandering hunters and gatherers. They made simple tools and weapons from stone, bone and wood. The development of farming led the nomads to settle in one area, which eventually resulted in the first civilizations.
The earliest people lived during the Old Stone Age, also called the Paleolithic age which began over two million years ago. Paleolithic people were nomads, or people who moved from place to place, hunting and gathering their food. Their simple social structure consisted of small groups of people who traveled together. These people made simple tools and weapons, such as digging sticks and spears, from stone, bone or wood. During Paleolithic times, people developed language, which allowed them to communicate and co-operate during a hunt. Paleolithic people also invented clothing made of animal skins. They used fire for warmth as well as for cooking and food.
Paleolithic people developed some spiritual beliefs. Toward the end of the Old Stone Age, people began burying their dead with care, a practice suggesting that they believed in an afterlife. They buried tools and weapons with their dead.
Evidence supports the theory that earliest people lived in East Africa. Their descendants spread to every part of the world. During the Old Stone Age, people migrated north and east into Europe and Asia. After many years, some migrated over a land bridge into North America. Others migrated by boat to islands in Pacific. Migration led to cultural diffusion, or exchange of ideas, customs, and goods among cultures. Cultural diffusion also occurred through trade and warfare.
The Neolithic Revolution
Environmental changes brought new climate patterns that contributed to the end of the Old Stone Age. Warmer weather allowed plants to grow where, previously sheets of ice had dominated the landscape.
Around 10,000 B.C, people made two important discoveries. They learned to plant seeds to grow food, and they learned to domesticate animals. These discoveries meant that people no longer had to wander in search of food and they could live in permanent settlements. This changed marked the beginning of the New Stone Age, or Neolithic period. The Neolithic Revolution, or the Agricultural Revolution, was the changed lifestyles of early humans by farming and domesticating animals.
Impact of Agriculture
After the Neolithic Revolution, more abundant food helped the population to increase. Humans’ lives changed in many ways:
- Permanent Settlements – People settled together in villages.
- New Social Classes – When resources were scare, groups went to war. Chiefs or headmen emerged. Some men gained prestige as warriors had great power.
- New Technology – People began to develop technology, or tools and skills they use to meet their basic needs, such as calendars and plows. Other new technology included the wheel, metal weapons, and metal tools.
These changes paved the way for civilizations to emerge.