Environmental and technological transformations created the foundation for our more modern human history.
Lecture on Interaction with the Environment:
Key Concept 1.1 — Throughout the Paleolithic era, humans developed sophisticated technologies and adapted to different geographical environments as they migrated from Africa to Eurasia, Australasia, and the Americas. Archeological evidence indicates that during the Paleolithic era, hunter- forager bands of humans gradually migrated from their origin in East Africa to Eurasia, Australia, and the Americas, adapting their technology and cultures to new climate regions. Humans developed increasingly diverse and sophisticated tools—including multiple uses of fire—as they adapted to new environments. People lived in small groups that structured social, economic, and political activity. These bands exchanged people, ideas, and goods.
Key Concept 1.2 — Beginning about 10,000 years ago, some human communities adopted sedentism and agriculture, while others pursued hunter-forager or pastoralist lifestyles—different pathways that had significant social and demographic ramifications. The Neolithic Revolution led to the development of more complex economic and social systems. Possibly as a response to climatic change, permanent agricultural villages emerged first in the lands of the eastern Mediterranean. Agriculture emerged independently in Mesopotamia, the Nile River Valley, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Indus River Valley, the Yellow River (or Huang He) Valley, Papua New Guinea, Mesoamerica, and the Andes. People in each region domesticated locally available plants and animals. Pastoralism developed in Afro–Eurasian grasslands, affecting the environment in a variety of ways. Agricultural communities had to work cooperatively to clear land and create the water control systems needed for crop production, drastically affecting environmental diversity.
Agriculture and pastoralism began to transform human societies. Pastoralism and agriculture led to more reliable and abundant food supplies, which increased the population and led to specialization of labor, including new classes of artisans and warriors and the development of elites. Technological innovations led to improvements in agricultural production, trade, and transportation. Patriarchal forms of social organization developed in both pastoralist and agrarian societies.
Lecture on Technology's Social Impact, Part A:
Lecture on Technology's Social Impact, Part B:
Key Concept 1.3 — The appearance of the first urban societies 5,000 years ago laid the foundations for the development of complex civilizations; these civilizations shared several significant social, political, and economic characteristics.
Core and foundational civilizations developed in a variety of geographical and environmental settings where agriculture flourished: 1) Mesopotamia (Tigris and Euphrates river valleys) 2) Egypt (Nile River Valley) 3) Mohenjo-daro and Harappa (Indus River Valley) 4) Shang (Huange He River Valley, also known as the "Yellow River") 5) Olmec (Mesoamerica) 6) Chavin (Andean South America)
The first "states" emerged within core civilizations in Mesopotamia and the Nile River Valley. States were powerful new systems of rule that mobilized surplus labor and resources over large areas. Rulers of early states often claimed divine connections to power. Rulers also relied on the support of the military, religious, or aristocratic elites. As states grew and competed for land and resources, the more favorably situated had greater access to resources, produced more surplus food, and experienced growing populations, enabling them to undertake territorial expansion and conquer surrounding states. Pastoralists were often the developers and disseminators of new weapons and modes of transportation that transformed warfare in agrarian civilizations.
Culture played a significant role in unifying states through laws, language, literature, religion, myths, and monumental art. Early civilizations developed monumental architecture and urban planning. Systems of record keeping arose independently in all early civilizations and writing and record keeping subsequently spread. States developed legal codes that reflected existing hierarchies and facilitated the rule of governments over people. New religious beliefs that developed in this period— including the Vedic religion, Hebrew monotheism, and Zoroastrianism—continued to have strong influences in later periods. Interregional cultural and technological exchanges grew as a result of expanding trade networks and large-scale population movements such as the Indo–European and Bantu migrations. Social hierarchies, including patriarchy, intensified as states expanded and cities multiplied.
Lecture on "Civilizations":
Lecture on Technological Advancements in the River Valley Civilizations:
Lecture on basic political terminology as it applies to the river valley civilizations: