The Early Humans
The paleolithic age extended roughly from 500,000 BC till about 10000 BC. During this period, early humans led a nomadic life. They moved from one place to another in search of food. They lived close to rivers so that they could always have a sufficient supply of water.
Early humans lived by hunting and gathering food. They ate wild fruits, vegetables and meat. In winters, they kept themselves warm by wearing animals skins, barks of trees and leaves. At night, they took shelter up in the trees or in caves.
The two major achievements that marked the paleolithic age were as follows:
* Early humans made crude stone tools
* Early humans discovered fire
Humans have evolved greatly through the millions of years that mark their existence on earth. Initially, they walked on all fours and ate whatever they could find - wild fruits, roots,insects and worms. They slept on trees and caves. Over time, they passed through many stages of evolution before finally becoming what they are today.
The process of human evolution was very slow. First, humans learned to walk upright. This enabled them to see farther in directions and protect themselves from animals. Their hands were now free to pick up and throw things to defend themselves. Their brain also developed and they used their intelligence to make tools and other things. They began to live by hunting, fishing and gathering food. Early humans wore clothes of animal skins. Gradually, they started building houses.
Since stone was easily available, early humans made tools of stone. These stone tools came to used on such a large scale that this period is known as stone age. The stone age is further divided into four periods of study based on the type and quality of stone tools that early humans used.
* Paleolithic or old stone age
* Mesolithic or middle stone age
* Neolithic or new stone age
* Chalcolithic or copper stone age
Discovery of fire
Fire was a major discovery in the early human's life. We do not know how it happened. Perhaps two flints were rubbed together accidentally and the sparks fell on some dry leaves lying nearby.
Gradually, early humans learned the uses of fire. Fire provided light and kept them warm.Early humans kept a fire burning at the entrance of their caves to scare away wild animals. They also found that fire could be used to cook food. This may have happened accidentally. A piece of raw meat may have fallen into a fire and got roasted. It would have tasted good and humans may have started cooking their food after that.
The Mesolithic age lasted for a short period of time from 10000 BC till about 8000 BC. It was a period of transition of for early early humans. Most features of the paleolithic age continued. There were, however, some new developments.
Stone tools of this period are called microliths. They were smaller and sharper than the tools of the paleolithic age. Besides stone, animal bones and horns were also used to make tools.
Early humans made scrapers, borers, hammers, sickles and arrowheads. The bow and arrow made it easier to hunt fast - moving animals. Hooks and baits improved fishing. Microliths have been found at many sites.
Early humans also built simple houses, though most people lived in caves and rock shelters. They also domesticated animals such as the dog, goat, sheep and cattle.
Do you think that there is another Earth and humans like us on it?
Beginning of agriculture
Agriculture was the greatest discover of the neolithic age. We do not know for sure how early humans first cultivating crops. Some seed, carelessly thrown away, may have sprouted and suggested the link between seeds and plants. Wheat and barley were the first cereals to be grown. Sickles, found at many neolithic sites, may have been used for harvesting crops. Thus from food gatherers, early humans became food producers.
With the beginning of agriculture,early humans began to lead a settled life. They began to live in mud houses near their fields. Family units came into existence. As there were more things to do in a settled life, labour was divided. Men became engaged in agriculture, hunting and making weapons. Women looked after house and children.
The Chalcolithic age extended roughly from 4000 BC till about 2000 BC. During this age, early humans used both copper and stone tools. The period though was short was very important because it marked a transition from the stone age to the age of metals.
The neolithic age lasted from 8000 BC till about 4000 BC. During this age, tools became still sharper and highly polished. Axes, sickles, spears, bows and arrows have been found from neolithic age sites.
Gradually, early humans began to understand the environment around them. They realized that more animals could be tamed and used for different purposes. Thus, they domesticated animals such as the pig, horse and donkey. Goat and cattle provided milk. Sheep provided wool. The horse and the donkey became beasts of burden.
The Neolithic age is the best known for three developments. These were as follows:
* Beginning of agriculture
* Invention of wheel
* Making of pottery
The invention of wheel
The invention of wheel was a major landmark in the history of early humans. A log or a stone rolling down downwards may have sparked off this idea. The wheel made early humans life easier. They could now go from one place to another much faster than before. They could also easily transport heavy objects. The wheel also improved the art of making pottery, The potters wheel came to be used in this period.
Making of pottery
To store food grains and cook food, vessels which could hold grains and liquids as well as withstand heat was needed. Early humans learned to make clay pottery and then bake it in fire. The potter's wheel enabled early humans to make pots of different sizes and shapes.
Gradually, glazing and decorating the pots became common.
Society and religion
Early humans lived in a simple society. They moved around in groups to protect themselves from wild animals. Everything belonged to the group. Each group had a leader. Generally, the eldest or the strongest member of the group was made its leader. There was a simple division of labour.
During the later stages of human evolution, society started growing more complex. The idea of private property emerged. The groups became smaller. Besides hunting and food gathering, people had other duties to perform. Thus division of labour became more specific and organized. Each member of the group was given a particular task. Some looked after animals, others cultivated fields and still others made tools and implements.
As time passed, life became comfortable for early humans. Instead of wandering around for food, they started living at one place. They began to grow more food and started exchanging their produce with other groups. This system of exchanging one item for another is called the barter system.
Early humans now had time for activities such as painting, making ornaments and thinking about the hows and whys of the world around them.
Early humans were fascinated by the mysteries of nature. Since they did not understand natural phenomena, they were scared of the lightning, thunder, earthquakes and weather changes. Ignorant about what caused them, early humans worshiped the sky, sun, rain, thunder, lightning, earthquakes, floods and so on.
Death was an another mystery for early humans. They believed that it was a long journey from which no one return. So all the necessities of life such as pottery, weapons, tools, food and so on were put in their graves. The dead were also worshiped by early humans.
By the end of chalcolithic age, early humans started living a secure and comfortable life. They had begun to built shelters and grow food. They still, however, did not know how to write. It was only when the bronze age civilization arose, that the skill of writing developed.