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Before History. Chapter 1. Prehistory refers to the period before writing, while history refers to the era after the invention of writing enabled human communities to record and store information. Australopithecus. “The Southern Ape” but not an ape, a hominid

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Prehistory refers to the period before writing, while history refers to the era after the invention of writing enabled human communities to record and store information.

  • “The Southern Ape” but not an ape, a hominid
  • Appeared in east Africa about 4-1 million years ago
  • Walked upright on two legs; well-developed hands
  • Stone tools; fire later
  • Short, hairy and limited intelligence
  • About 3 feet tall, 25-55 pounds
  • Brain size was 500 cubic centimeters

November 1974

  • Hadar, Ethiopia
  • 25-30 years old
  • 3.5 feet tall
  • About 55 pounds
  • One of the most complete and best-preserved skeletons of any early human ancestor
  • Skull about the size of a grapefruit
  • Walked upright
  • 3.2 million years ago


homo erectus
Homo erectus
  • “upright walking human”
  • 2.5 million to 200,000 years ago
  • East Africa
  • Large brain (1000cc); sophisticated tools
  • Fire
  • Developed language skills in well-coordinated hunts of large animals
  • Migrated to Asia and Europe; established throughout by 200,000 years ago
homo sapiens
Homo sapiens
  • “Consciously thinking human”
  • Evolved as early as 200,000 years ago
  • Brain with large frontal regions for conscious and reflective thought
  • Spread throughout Eurasia beginning more than one hundred thousand years ago
  • Ice age land bridges enabled them to populate other continents
  • Used knives, spears, bows, and arrows
  • Brought pressure on other species
paleolithic society
Paleolithic Society

Economy and society of hunting and gathering peoples

  • Economic life
    • Prevented individuals from accumulating private property
    • Lived an egalitarian existence
    • Lived in small bands, about thirty to fifty members in each group
  • Big game hunting with special tools and tactics
  • Some permanent Paleolithic settlements, if area rich in resources
      • Natufians in eastern Mediterranean
      • Jomon in central Japan
      • Chinook in Pacific northwest area of North America
paleolithic culture
Paleolithic Culture

Neandertal peoples

  • Europe and southwest Asia, between one hundred thousand and thirty-five thousand years ago
  • Careful, deliberate burials were evidence of a capacity for emotion and feelings

Cro-Magnon peoples (Homo sapiens sapiens)

  • The first human beings of fully modern type; appeared forty thousand years ago
  • Venus figurines--fertility
  • Cave paintings of animals--sympathetic magic
  • Better weapons, needles, jewelry, furniture
neolithic era
Neolithic Era

The origins of agriculture

  • Neolithic era; new stone age; refined tools and agriculture
    • From about twelve thousand to six thousand years ago
    • Neolithic women began systematic cultivation of plants
    • Neolithic men began to domesticate animals
  • Early agriculture around 9000 B.C.E.
    • Agriculture emerged independently in several parts of the world
    • Merchants, migrants, and travelers spread food knowledge
    • Slash-and-burn cultivation involved frequent movement of farmers
    • Agriculture more work than hunting/gathering but steady, large supply of food
neolithic society
Neolithic Society

Early agricultural society; population explosion caused by surplus

  • Emergence of villages and towns
    • Jericho, earliest known neolithic village
    • Mud huts and defensive walls
  • Specialization of labor
    • Neolithic site of Çatal Hüyük, eight thousand people
    • Prehistoric craft industries: pottery, metallurgy, and textile production
  • Social distinctions, due to private land ownership
neolithic culture
Neolithic Culture
  • calendars
  • life cycle deities
urban life
Urban Life
  • Emergence of cities, larger and more complex than villages
  • Earliest cities in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, 4000 to 3500 B.C.E.