Ancient Civilization: Paleolithic and Neolithic cultures

The Paleolithic Old Stone era began in about 40,000 – 10,000 B. C. The beginning of this period was marked by the first human hunter-gatherer societies. Hunting, fishing, and gathering of fruits and nuts were the main economic endeavors at the time. The responsibilities in these hunter-gathering societies were shared. The men of this period did the very dangerous hunting of large wild animals like bison and reindeer, while women gatherer fruits and nuts for an entire year. The small communities of 25-50 people came to consensus on decisions and ideas were shared.

The extended family was core. Men and women both played a roll in child bearing. The people of this era lived in huts and caves. Caves were idealistic living quarters; they could be heated in the cold weather months and were cool in hot weather months. Caves were also good advantage points for observing prey. Caves were also the sites of representational art. Paleolithic cave paintings were of bison, horse, reindeer and mammoths. Historians believe that art may have been the cave dwellers’ attempts to control the environment through magic.

Other representational art of this time included (Venus) figurines of women. The female figurines exaggerated the buttocks and breasts of women, perhaps in attempt to control fertility of women. Men spent a lot of time fashioning tools, like the javelin for hunting. The skilled craftsmanship of tools and the artists demonstrates at least a limited specialization of skills and division of labor, so these societies required organization in the villages. The desire to trade ideas and merchandise with other societies developed. The Neolithic New Stone era began sometime around 10,000 B. C.

The beginning of this period was marked by the domestication of animals and plants. With men occupied in hunting, it may well have been females who first unraveled the secrets of agriculture. Humans specialized in the wild plants they collected and the animals they hunted. They began to learn how to control the environment in order to domesticate plants and animals. The domestication of animals perhaps started with dogs, which were useful in hunting. Then they learned to keep sheep, goats, chickens and cattle. Next came farming. They learned to grow wheat, barley, then legumes (beans).

Craft specialization was evident, in addition to farming and shepherding, occupations in trading and accounting, iron working, clothing making, jewelers, artists and mining developed. The villagers mined copper (period was also known as Copper Age), gems, perhaps for pottery and hunting tools. Accountants were used for trade transactions. Technological advancements came into use like the wheel and complex metal casting. In Europe, elaborate temple complexes and other monuments were built, which required complex mathematics. Also during the Neolithic period, religions developed. Gods and goddesses controlled everything.

Gods and goddesses of the earth and fertility were worshipped. There was a strong urge to create cities near water. The organization and engineering that took place in this period is what lead humans to civilization. Discuss the causes of ancient civilization. Civilizations evolved in response to the need in the Neolithic communities for organization and engineering. Early civilizations were very complex. In early civilizations there is evidence of large and specialized labor forces, strong government, technology to control the environment, significant projects in art and thought and the invention of writing.

As Neolithic communities grew, there was a strong urge to create cities near water. The first civilizations began in Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and in the valley of the Nile River in Egypt around 3500 – 3000 B. C.. Large and efficient irrigation and drainage projects created channels, dikes, or dams to control floodwaters and to improve the fertility of the land. There was a need for social and economic hierarchies. The city was a society of strangers. There were single people as well as nuclear families in monogamous relationships. Civil rights came because you lived in a city.

With individual freedoms came more responsibilities. There were five main social classes. The first class was the royal family, which marked the first form of government – monarchy. The position of king or queen was inherited. If there was not an eldest son, the daughter became queen. The second class in the hierarchy was the aristocracy. The third class was made of the burghers or the artisans, mechanics, teachers, accountants, scribes and translators. The fourth class was made of the serfs. Serfs could not be bought or sold, but could not leave the land on which they worked, they had specific jobs.

The river valley society developed into city-states, independent political units that each contained a rural countryside with villages controlled by a capital city. The urban landscape’s most visible sign of centralized authority was the temple. The temple was the most important authority in religion, politics and economics. Temples were wealthy and powerful and commanded loyalty because only a strong institution could control the large amount of manpower required to build these elaborate works of architecture. Religion and politics went together, and this was the monarchy’s way to prove their legitimacy.

The religions at this time were polytheistic. For instance there could be 3 gods per city and 1 national god. There were military forces in early civilizations. The original police were the king’s guards and temple guards. There were special military drills developed to train the armies to address the military’s main concern, how to deal with outsiders. Discuss Egyptian art, architecture, literature, and religion. Art – Egyptian art consisted mainly of sculptures carved in stone, wood, or metal. They were statues of kings, queens, gods and goddesses, husband, wives, adults and children, officials, priests, scribes.

The body posture was rigid and stiff. The face was very individualistic and drawn from life. Other art was exemplified in the tombs. The tombs were decorated with rich, multicolored wall paintings, the first narrative painting. There are scenes of the gods, court ceremony, ordinary life, war and recreation. The paintings served a religious purpose – representations of the living were meant to perpetuate them in the afterlife. Egyptian craftsmen were masters of gold jewelry-work, glassmaking, and wood working. Architecture – Egyptian architecture included royal tombs, palaces, forts, pyramids and temples.

These structures were built in harmony with the unique landscape. Stone temples like Ramesses II’s project at Abu Simbel, two chambers were carved out of rock, and in front of the larger chamber were four seated colossal statues of Ramesses carved out of rock. Great Pyramids demonstrated the king’s abililty to organize a vast labor force. Literature – Ancient Egyptian literature is notable for its variety. Religious subjects, historical and commemorative records, technical treaties in mathematics and medicine, business contracts, and royal proclamations. The fibers of the papyrus plant could be made into writing paper.

Egyptian writing is best known for hieroglyphics, a system of pictures and abstract signs that represent sounds or ideas. Hieroglyphics were used only for monuments and ornamentation. Religion – Polytheistic – human, animal cats dogs crocodiles gods were worshipped or Henotheist worship of one god without denying the existence of others, Moral do unto others – you come before judges in the underworld where your sins are weighed. and the sinless are admitted into eternal life, Immortality – focus on the afterlife. Death could be an extremely pleasant continuation of life on earth.

Preserved bodies – embalming the Egyptian mummy. The ka soul was immortal. Chief Gods Re (Sun) Osiris (Earth/Death) 4 Mesopotamian Groups Sumerians – The Sumerian city-states were the foundation for all civilizations. They were the first literate society. The potesi was the king or governor of the city state. He was a representative on earth of the gods. Cities were really governed by the gods, Ziggarats, or stepped towers were the main temples of the city-state. Epic of Gilgamesh was a story of heroic deeds. It showed the connection between gods and humans.

The main themes are friendship, loss, and the inevitability of death. Babylonians – absolute monarchy – Hammarabi’s Code was harsh and it showed the inequity of law. Serfs had little rights. Nobility had more rights, privileges and responsibilities. Weights and measures. Fate divination. All humans are weak/defective. Sacrifices to the Gods were given. Humans are very separated from the Gods Assyrians – War and conquest. Asshur was their main God, a war-god,. Cavalry units First state to rule both Tigris and Euphrates and the Nile River Valleys. Expansionist theory. Military and merchantile power.

Mass deportation. Conquered a country and uprooted the people. Punished rebellion. Chaldeans – Neo Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar conquered and destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. He deported the Judeans to Babylon in an event remembered as Babylonian Captivity. Cosmopolitan empire. Diverse, but superior and sophisticated. He rebuilt Babylon on a grand scale. Great interest in astronomy and astrology for religious reasons. Planets were Gods, can’t be contained. Astronomers of that time could predict equinoxes and lunar eclipses and could calculate the movements of the moon and stars.


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