|Dr. Hartnell's Nutty the A.D.D. Squirrel||
In the Beginning...
Stuff has been going on this planet for a long time! When we use the word "history" in reference to human events, we refer to the events that occurred after the Neolithic Revolution and the appearance of civilizations 10,000 years ago. Events that happened before the Neolitic Revolution fall under "Prehistory". Almost 99% of our time on Earth falls under Prehistory.
We study Prehistory through the fields of archeology and anthropology. Archaeologists dig up and study the material evidence left behind, such as dwellings, tools, everyday materials, and a civilization's monuments or works of art. These are called artifacts. Anthropologists study human life and cultures both past and present. They use the artifacts and human fossils unearthed by archeologists to find out how early people lived. (Simply put, archaeologists study the CRAP while anthropologists study the CRAPPERS.)
Because Prehistory is the period of human history before written documents appeared, "creative guesswork" often takes place when we try to fit the pieces together.
Prehistory started 100,000 to 250,000 years ago with the appearance of the first modern Homo sapiens. It ended around 3000 BC with the use of cuneiform writing in Sumer (in present-day Iraq) and hieroglyphics in Egypt.
Prehistory is subdivided into three categories named for the dominant tool of the time. The Stone Age was the earliest period, and tools were made from stone. It began 2.5 million years ago and lasted until around 2400 BC.
The Bronze Age fell between 3500-1500 BC and was characterized by the use of copper and bronze tools. The Iron Age began around 1400 BC when humans mass-produced iron tools. It ended at different times as countries finally upgraded to iron (for example: Polynesia, a series of Pacific islands, didn't enter the Iron Age until Europeans arrived between 1500-1750).
The Neolithic Revolution has been called the most important change in human
history! It happened in Southwest Asia between 8000-7000 BC when people changed from being nomadic, hunter-gatherers to agrarian settlers (farmers).
Farming gave humans more control over their food supply, but it required them to settle down and work with larger groups. This interaction allowed for populations to grow and societies to develop.
Not until the First and Second Industrial Revolutions (1760-1850; 1871-1914) was manual labor replaced by machines. Begun in Britain with the steam power, this impact on society was second only to the Neolithic Revolution.
The earliest human-like creatures lived in Eastern and Southern Africa three or four million years ago.
They were called australopithecines [pronounced: aw-stray-low-pith-uh-signs], or "southern apes", they were the first hominids (upright walkers) to make stone tools.
The second stage occurred with Homo erectus ("upright human being"), who lived 1.5 million years ago in Africa before moving into Europe and Asia. They were the first to use fire.
The third stage began 250,000 years ago with Homo sapiens ("wise human being"). Two subgroups, Neanderthals and Homo sapiens sapiens ("wise, wise human being"), developed from Homo sapiens. Neanderthals lived in Europe and Southwest Asia 200,000 years ago.
Homo sapiens sapiens (the first to look like modern humans) appeared in Africa 100,000 years ago. They replaced Neanderthals by 26,000 BC.
Today, all humans belong to the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens.