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Massive stone pillars at "Göbekli Tepe, in southeast Turkey, erected for ritual use by early "Neolithic people 11,000 years ago.

Prehistory is the period of human activity between the use of the first "stone tools c. 3.3 million years ago and the invention of writing systems, the earliest of which appeared c. 5,300 years ago.

"Sumer in "Mesopotamia, the "Indus valley civilisation and "ancient Egypt were the first civilisations to develop their own scripts, and to keep historical records; this took place already during the early "Bronze Age. Neighbouring civilizations were the first to follow. Most other civilizations reached the end of prehistory during the "Iron Age. The "three-age system of division of prehistory into the "Stone Age, followed by the Bronze Age and Iron Age, remains in use for much of "Eurasia and "North Africa, but is not generally used in those parts of the world where "the working of hard metals arrived abruptly with contact with "Eurasian cultures, such as "the Americas, "Oceania, "Australasia and much of "Sub-Saharan Africa. These areas also, with some exceptions in "Pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas, did not develop complex writing systems before the arrival of Eurasians, and their prehistory reaches into relatively recent periods.

The period when a culture is written about by others, but has not developed its own writing is often known as the "protohistory of the culture. By definition,[1] there are no written records from human prehistory, so dating of prehistoric materials is crucial. Clear techniques for dating were not well-developed until the 19th century.[2]

Contents

Definition[edit]

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A prehistoric man and boy.
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man in wilderness
Beginning

The term "prehistory" can refer to the vast span of time since the "beginning of the "Universe or the Earth, but more often it refers to the period since "life appeared on Earth, or even more specifically to the time since human-like beings appeared.[3][4]

End

The date marking the end of prehistory in a particular culture or region, that is, the date when relevant "written historical records become a useful academic resource, varies enormously from region to region. For example, in "Egypt it is generally accepted that prehistory ended around 3200 BC, whereas in "New Guinea the end of the prehistoric era is set much more recently, at around 1900 AD. In Europe the relatively well-documented classical cultures of "Ancient Greece and "Ancient Rome had neighbouring cultures, including the "Celts and to a lesser extent the "Etruscans, with little or no writing, and historians must decide how much weight to give to the often highly prejudiced accounts of these "prehistoric" cultures in Greek and Roman literature.

Time periods

In dividing up human prehistory, historians typically use the "three-age system, whereas scholars of pre-human time periods typically use the "well-defined "geologic record and its internationally defined "stratum base within the "geologic time scale. The three-age system is the "periodization of human prehistory into three consecutive "time periods, named for their respective predominant tool-making technologies:

History of the term[edit]

The notion of "prehistory" began to surface during the Enlightenment in the work of antiquarians who used the word 'primitive' to describe societies that existed before written records.[6] The first use of the word prehistory in English, however, occurred in the Foreign "Quarterly Review in 1836.[7]

The use of the geologic time scale for pre-human time periods, and of the three-age system for human prehistory, is a system that emerged during the late nineteenth century in the work of British, German and Scandinavian "archeologists, "antiquarians and "anthropologists.[5]

Means of research[edit]

The main source for prehistory is "archaeology, but some scholars are beginning to make more use of evidence from the natural and social sciences.[8][9][10] This view has been articulated by advocates of "deep history.

The primary researchers into human prehistory are archaeologists and physical "anthropologists who use excavation, geologic and geographic surveys, and other scientific analysis to reveal and interpret the nature and behavior of pre-literate and non-literate peoples.[3] Human population "geneticists and "historical linguists are also providing valuable insight for these questions.[4] Cultural anthropologists help provide context for societal interactions, by which objects of human origin pass among people, allowing an analysis of any article that arises in a human prehistoric context.[4] Therefore, data about prehistory is provided by a wide variety of natural and social sciences, such as "paleontology, "biology, "archaeology, "palynology, "geology, "archaeoastronomy, "comparative linguistics, "anthropology, "molecular genetics and many others.

Human prehistory differs from history not only in terms of its "chronology but in the way it deals with the activities of "archaeological cultures rather than named "nations or "individuals. Restricted to material processes, remains and artifacts rather than written records, prehistory is anonymous. Because of this, reference terms that prehistorians use, such as "Neanderthal or "Iron Age are modern labels with definitions sometimes subject to debate.

Stone Age[edit]

Palaeolithic[edit]

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Map of early "human migrations, according to "mitochondrial "population genetics. Numbers are "millennia before the present (accuracy disputed).

"Palaeolithic" means "Old Stone Age", and begins with the first use of "stone tools. The Paleolithic is the earliest period of the "Stone Age.

The early part of the Palaeolithic is called the "Lower Palaeolithic, which predates "Homo sapiens, beginning with "Homo habilis (and related species) and with the earliest stone tools, dated to around 2.5 million years ago.[11] Evidence of "control of fire by early humans during the Lower Palaeolithic Era is uncertain and has at best limited scholarly support. The most widely accepted claim is that H. erectus or "H. ergaster made fires between 790,000 and 690,000 BP (before the present period) in a site at "Bnot Ya'akov Bridge, "Israel. The use of fire enabled early humans to cook food, provide warmth, and have a light source at night.

"Early Homo sapiens originated some 200,000 years ago, ushering in the "Middle Palaeolithic. Anatomic changes indicating modern language capacity also arise during the Middle Palaeolithic.[12] During the Middle Palaeolithic Era, there is the first definitive evidence of human use of fire. Sites in Zambia have charred bone and wood that have been dated to 61,000 B.P. The systematic "burial of the dead, "music, "early art, and the use of increasingly sophisticated multi-part tools are highlights of the Middle Paleolithic.

Throughout the Palaeolithic, humans generally lived as "nomadic "hunter-gatherers. "Hunter-gatherer societies tended to be very small and egalitarian,[13] though hunter-gatherer societies with abundant resources or advanced food-storage techniques sometimes developed sedentary lifestyles with complex social structures such as chiefdoms["citation needed], and "social stratification. Long-distance contacts may have been established, as in the case of "Indigenous Australian "highways" known as "songlines.["citation needed]

Mesolithic[edit]

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The "Mesolithic", or "Middle Stone Age" (from the "Greek "mesos", "middle", and "lithos", "stone") was a period in the development of human "technology between the Palaeolithic and "Neolithic periods of the Stone Age.

The Mesolithic period began at the end of the "Pleistocene epoch, some 10,000 BP, and ended with "the introduction of agriculture, the date of which varied by geographic region. In some areas, such as the "Near East, agriculture was already underway by the end of the "Pleistocene, and there the Mesolithic is short and poorly defined. In areas with limited "glacial impact, the term ""Epipalaeolithic" is sometimes preferred.

Regions that experienced greater environmental effects as the "last ice age ended have a much more evident Mesolithic era, lasting millennia. In "Northern Europe, societies were able to live well on rich food supplies from the "marshlands fostered by the warmer climate. Such conditions produced distinctive human behaviours that are preserved in the material record, such as the "Maglemosian and "Azilian cultures. These conditions also delayed the coming of the Neolithic until as late as 4000 BC (6,000 "BP) in northern Europe.

Remains from this period are few and far between, often limited to "middens. In forested areas, the first signs of "deforestation have been found, although this would only begin in earnest during the Neolithic, when more space was needed for "agriculture.

The Mesolithic is characterized in most areas by small composite "flint tools — "microliths and "microburins. "Fishing tackle, stone "adzes and wooden objects, e.g. "canoes and "bows, have been found at some sites. These technologies first occur in Africa, associated with the Azilian cultures, before spreading to Europe through the "Ibero-Maurusian culture of Northern Africa and the "Kebaran culture of the "Levant. Independent discovery is not always ruled out.

Neolithic[edit]

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Entrance to the Ġgantija phase temple complex of "Hagar Qim, "Malta, 3900 BC.[14]
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An array of Neolithic artifacts, including bracelets, axe heads, chisels, and polishing tools. Neolithic stone artifacts are by definition polished and, except for specialty items, not chipped.

"Neolithic" means "New Stone Age." Although there were several species of human beings during the "Paleolithic, by the Neolithic only "Homo sapiens sapiens remained.[15] ("Homo floresiensis may have survived right up to the very dawn of the Neolithic, about 12,200 years ago.)[16] This was a period of primitive "technological and "social development. It began about 10,200 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world[17] and ended between 4,500 and 2,000 BC. The Neolithic is a progression of behavioral and cultural characteristics and changes, including the use of wild and domestic crops and of "domesticated animals.

Early Neolithic farming was limited to a narrow range of plants, both wild and domesticated, which included "einkorn wheat, "millet and "spelt, and the keeping of "dogs, "sheep and "goats. By about 6,900–6,400 BC, it included domesticated "cattle and "pigs, the establishment of permanently or seasonally inhabited settlements, and the use of "pottery. The Neolithic period saw the development of early "villages, "agriculture, animal "domestication, "tools and the onset of the earliest recorded incidents of warfare.[18] The Neolithic era commenced with the beginning of "farming, which produced the ""Neolithic Revolution". It ended when metal tools became widespread (in the "Copper Age or "Bronze Age; or, in some geographical regions, in the "Iron Age).The term Neolithic is commonly used in the "Old World, as its application to cultures in the "Americas and "Oceania that did not fully develop metal-working technology raises problems.

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The monumental building at Luni sul Mignone in "Blera, Italy, 3500 BC.

Settlements became more permanent with some having circular houses with single rooms made of "mudbrick. Settlements might have a surrounding stone wall to keep domesticated animals in and protect the inhabitants from other tribes. Later settlements have rectangular mud-brick houses where the family lived together in single or multiple rooms. Burial findings suggest an "ancestor cult where people "preserved skulls of the dead. The "Vinča culture may have created the earliest system of writing.[19] The "megalithic temple complexes of "Ġgantija are notable for their gigantic structures. Although some late Eurasian Neolithic societies formed complex stratified chiefdoms or even states, states evolved in Eurasia only with the rise of metallurgy, and most Neolithic societies on the whole were relatively simple and egalitarian.[20] Most clothing appears to have been made of animal skins, as indicated by finds of large numbers of bone and antler pins which are ideal for fastening leather. "Wool cloth and "linen might have become available during the later Neolithic,[21][22] as suggested by finds of perforated stones that (depending on size) may have served as "spindle whorls or "loom weights.[23][24][25]

Chalcolithic[edit]

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Artist's impression of a Copper Age walled city, "Los Millares, "Iberia

In Old World archaeology, the "Chalcolithic", "Eneolithic" or "Copper Age" refers to a transitional period where early "copper metallurgy appeared alongside the widespread use of stone tools. During this period, some weapons and tools were made of copper. This period was still largely Neolithic in character. It is a phase of the "Bronze Age before it was discovered that adding "tin to "copper formed the harder "bronze. The Copper Age was originally defined as a transition between the "Neolithic and the Bronze Age. However, because it is characterized by the use of metals, the Copper Age is considered a part of the Bronze Age rather than the Stone Age.

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Chalcolithic copper mine in "Timna Valley, "Negev Desert, "Israel

An archaeological site in "Serbia contains the oldest securely dated evidence of copper making at high temperature, from 7,500 years ago. The find in June 2010 extends the known record of copper smelting by about 800 years, and suggests that copper smelting may have been invented in separate parts of Asia and Europe at that time rather than spreading from a single source.[26] The emergence of "metallurgy may have occurred first in the "Fertile Crescent, where it gave rise to the Bronze Age in the "4th millennium BC (the traditional view), though finds from the "Vinča culture in Europe have now been securely dated to slightly earlier than those of the Fertile Crescent. "Timna Valley contains evidence of copper mining 9,000 to 7,000 years ago. The process of transition from "Neolithic to Chalcolithic in the Middle East is characterized in archaeological stone tool assemblages by a decline in high quality raw material procurement and use. North Africa and the Nile Valley imported its iron technology from the "Near East and followed the Near Eastern course of Bronze Age and "Iron Age development. However the "Iron Age and Bronze Age occurred simultaneously in much of Africa.

Bronze Age[edit]

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"Ox-drawn "plow, "Egypt, ca. 1200 BCE.

The Bronze Age is the earliest period in which some civilizations have reached the end of prehistory, by introducing written records. The Bronze Age or parts thereof are thus considered to be part of prehistory only for the regions and civilizations who adopted or developed a system of keeping written records during later periods. The "invention of writing coincides in some areas with the early beginnings of the Bronze Age. Soon after the appearance of writing, people started creating texts including written accounts of events and records of administrative matters.

The term Bronze Age refers to a period in human cultural development when the most advanced "metalworking (at least in systematic and widespread use) included techniques for "smelting "copper and "tin from naturally occurring outcroppings of ores, and then combining them to cast "bronze. These naturally occurring ores typically included arsenic as a common impurity. Copper/tin ores are rare, as reflected in the fact that there were no tin bronzes in Western Asia before 3000 BC. The Bronze Age forms part of the "three-age system for prehistoric societies. In this system, it follows the "Neolithic in some areas of the world.

While copper is a common ore, deposits of tin are rare in the "Old World, and often had to be traded or carried considerable distances from the few mines, stimulating the creation of extensive trading routes. In many areas as far apart as China and England, the valuable new material was used for weapons but for a long time apparently not available for agricultural tools. Much of it seems to have been hoarded by social elites, and sometimes deposited in extravagant quantities, from "Chinese ritual bronzes and "Indian copper hoards to European "hoards of unused axe-heads.

By the end of the Bronze Age large states, which are often called empires, had arisen in Egypt, China, "Anatolia (the "Hittites) and "Mesopotamia, all of them literate.

Iron Age[edit]

The Iron Age is not part of prehistory for all civilizations who had introduced written records during the Bronze Age. Most remaining civilizations did so during the Iron Age, often through conquest by the empires, which continued to expand during this period. For example, in most of Europe conquest by the "Roman Empire means that the term Iron Age is replaced by "Roman", ""Gallo-Roman" and similar terms after the conquest.

In archaeology, the Iron Age refers to the advent of "ferrous metallurgy. The adoption of "iron coincided with other changes in some past cultures, often including more sophisticated agricultural practices, religious beliefs and artistic styles, which makes the archaeological Iron Age coincide with the ""Axial Age" in the history of philosophy. Although iron ore is common, the metalworking techniques necessary to use iron are very different from those needed for the metal used earlier, and iron was slow-spreading and for long mainly used for weapons, while bronze remained typical for tools, as well as art.

Timeline[edit]

All dates are approximate and conjectural, obtained through research in the fields of "anthropology, "archaeology, "genetics, "geology, or "linguistics. They are all subject to revision due to new discoveries or improved calculations. BP stands for ""Before Present (1950)." BCE stands for Before "Common Era".

"Lower Paleolithic
"Middle Paleolithic
"Upper Paleolithic
"Mesolithic/"Epipaleolithic
"Neolithic
"Chalcolithic

By region[edit]

Old World
New World

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Dictionary Entry". Retrieved 8 August 2017. 
  2. ^ Graslund, Bo. 1987. The birth of prehistoric chronology. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ a b Fagan, Brian. 2007. World Prehistory: A brief introduction New York:Prentice-Hall, Seventh Edition, Chapter One
  4. ^ a b c Renfrew, Colin. 2008. Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind. New York: Modern Library
  5. ^ a b Matthew Daniel Eddy (Ed.) (2011). Prehistoric Minds: Human Origins as a Cultural Artefact. Royal Society of London. 
  6. ^ Eddy, Matthew Daniel (2011). "The Line of Reason: Hugh Blair, Spatiality and the Progressive Structure of Language". Notes and Records of the Royal Society. 65: 9–24. "doi:10.1098/rsnr.2010.0098. 
  7. ^ Eddy, Matthew Daniel (2011). "The Prehistoric Mind as a Historical Artefact". Notes and Records of the Royal Society. 65: 1–8. "doi:10.1098/rsnr.2010.0097. 
  8. ^ The Prehistory of Iberia: Debating Early Social Stratification and the State edited by María Cruz Berrocal, Leonardo García Sanjuán, Antonio Gilman. Pg 36.
  9. ^ Historical Archaeology: Back from the Edge. Edited by Pedro Paulo A. Funari, Martin Hall, Sian Jones. Pg 8.
  10. ^ Through the Ages in Palestinian Archaeology: An Introductory Handbook. By Walter E. Ras. Pg 49.
  11. ^ The Essence of Anthropology 3rd ed. By William A. Haviland, Harald E. L. Prins, Dana Walrath, Bunny McBrid. Pg 83.
  12. ^ Race and Human Evolution. By Milford H. Wolpoff. Pg 348.
  13. ^ Vanishing Voices : The Extinction of the World's Languages. By Daniel Nettle, Suzanne Romaine Merton Professor of English Language University of Oxford. pp. 102–103.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-03. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  15. ^ "World Museum of Man: Neolithic / Chalcolithic Period". World Museum of Man. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2013. 
  16. ^ Lyras; et al. (2008). "The origin of Homo floresiensis and its relation to evolutionary processes under isolation". Anthropological Science. 
  17. ^ Figure 3.3 from First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies by "Peter Bellwood, 2004
  18. ^ The Perfect Gift: Prehistoric Massacres. The twin vices of women and cattle in prehistoric Europe Archived 2008-06-11 at the "Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ Winn, Shan (1981). Pre-writing in Southeastern Europe: The Sign System of the Vinča Culture ca. 4000 BC. Calgary: Western Publishers. 
  20. ^ Leonard D. Katz Rigby; S. Stephen Henry Rigby (2000). Evolutionary Origins of Morality: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives. United kingdom: Imprint Academic. p. 158. "ISBN "0-7190-5612-8. 
  21. ^ Harris, Susanna (2009). "Smooth and Cool, or Warm and Soft: Investigatingthe Properties of Cloth in Prehistory". North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles X. Academia.edu. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  22. ^ "Aspects of Life During the Neolithic Period" (PDF). Teachers' Curriculum Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 May 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  23. ^ Gibbs, Kevin T. (2006). "Pierced clay disks and Late Neolithic textile production". Proceedings of the 5th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. Academia.org. Retrieved 5 September 2013. 
  24. ^ Green, Jean M (1993). "Unraveling the Enigma of the Bi: The Spindle Whorl as the Model of the Ritual Disk". Asian Perspectives. University of Hawai'i Press. 32 (1): 105–24. Archived from the original on 2015-02-11. 
  25. ^ Cook, M (2007). "The clay loom weight, in: Early Neolithic ritual activity, Bronze Age occupation and medieval activity at Pitlethie Road, Leuchars, Fife". Tayside And Fife Archaeological Journal. 13: 1–23. 
  26. ^ "Serbian site may have hosted first copper makers". ScienceNews. July 17, 2010. 
  27. ^ Shea, J. J. 2003. Neanderthals, competition and the origin of modern human behaviour in the Levant. Evolutionary Anthropology 12: 173–187.
  28. ^ "Origin of Clothing Lice Indicates Early Clothing Use by Anatomically Modern Humans in Africa". Molecular Biology and Evolution. September 2010. 
  29. ^ "Mount Toba Eruption – Ancient Humans Unscathed, Study Claims". Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  30. ^ "Zimmer, Carl (September 21, 2016). "How We Got Here: DNA Points to a Single Migration From Africa". "New York Times. Retrieved September 22, 2016. 
  31. ^ a b This is indicated by the M130 marker in the "Y chromosome. "Traces of a Distant Past", by Gary Stix, Scientific American, July 2008, pages 56–63.
  32. ^ Macey, Richard (2007). "Settlers' history rewritten: go back 30,000 years". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 July 2014. 
  33. ^ "Aboriginal people and place". Sydney Barani. 2013. Retrieved 5 July 2014. 
  34. ^ Sandra Bowdler. "The Pleistocene Pacific". Published in 'Human settlement', in D. Denoon (ed) The Cambridge History of the Pacific Islanders. pp. 41–50. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. "University of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 16 February 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2008. 
  35. ^ Gary Presland, The First Residents of Melbourne's Western Region, (revised edition), Harriland Press, 1997. "ISBN "0-646-33150-7. Presland says on page 1: "There is some evidence to show that people were living in the "Maribyrnong River valley, near present day "Keilor, about 40,000 years ago."
  36. ^ James Trager, The People's Chronology, 1994, "ISBN "0-8050-3134-0
  37. ^ Gene S. Stuart, "Ice Age Hunters: Artists in Hidden Cages." In Mysteries of the Ancient World, a publication of the National Geographic Society, 1979. Pages 11–18.
  38. ^ Stuart, Gene S. (1979). "Ice Age Hunters: Artists in Hidden Cages". Mysteries of the Ancient World. National Geographic Society. p. 19. 
  39. ^ The Origin of Cultivation and Proto-Weeds, Long Before Neolithic Farming Ainit Snir et al., PLOS July 22, 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131422
  40. ^ Stuart, Gene S. (1979). "Ice Age Hunters: Artists in Hidden Cages". Mysteries of the Ancient World. National Geographic Society. pp. 8–10. 
  41. ^ "Shift from Savannah to Sahara was Gradual", by Kenneth Chang, "New York Times, May 9, 2008.
  42. ^ Kislev et al. (2006a, b), Lev-Yadun et al. (2006)
  43. ^ Kiple, Kenneth F. and Ornelas, Kriemhild Coneè, eds., The Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 83
  44. ^ "No-Till: The Quiet Revolution", by David Huggins and John Reganold, Scientific American, July 2008, pages 70–77.
  45. ^ Fagan, Brian M, ed. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1996 "ISBN "978-0-521-40216-3 p 363
  46. ^ Glassner, Jean-Jacques. The Invention of Cuneiform: Writing In Sumer. Trans.Zainab, Bahrani. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. Ebook.
  47. ^ Caroline Alexander, "Stonehenge", National Geographic, June 2008.

External links[edit]

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