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Period 1 Vocabulary
Crash Course Videos
Period 1: Technological & Environmental Transformation
(to 600 BCE)
Key Concept 1.1 Big Geography and Peopling of the Earth
The term Big Geography draws attention to the global nature of world history. Throughout the Paleolithic period, humans migrated from Africa to Eurasia, Australia, and the Americas. Early humans were mobile and creative in adapting to different geographical settings from savanna to desert to tundra. Humans also developed varied and sophisticated technologies.
I. Archaeological evidence indicates that during the Paleolithic era, hunter-foraging 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.
A. Humans developed increasingly diverse and sophisticated tools—including multiple uses of fire—as they adapted to new environments.
B. People lived in small groups that structured social, economic, and political activity. These bands exchanged people, ideas, and goods.
Key Concept 1.2. The Neolithic Revolution and Early Agricultural Societies
In response to warming climates at the end of the last Ice Age, from about 10,000 years ago, some groups adapted to the environment in new ways, while others remained hunter-foragers. Settled agriculture appeared in several different parts of the world. The switch to agriculture created a more reliable, but not necessarily more diversified, food supply. Agriculturalists also had a massive impact on the environment through intensive cultivation of selected plants to the exclusion of others, through the construction of irrigation systems, and through the use of domesticated animals for food and for labor. Populations increased; family groups gave way to village life and, later, to urban life with all its complexity. Patriarchy and forced labor systems developed, giving elite men concentrated power over most of the other people in their societies. Pastoralism emerged in parts of Africa and Eurasia. Pastoral peoples domesticated animals and led their herds around grazing ranges. Like agriculturalists, pastoralists tended to be more socially stratified than hunter-foragers. Because pastoralists were mobile, they rarely accumulated large amounts of material possessions, which would have been a hindrance when they changed grazing areas. The pastoralists’ mobility allowed them to become an important conduit for technological change as they interacted with settled populations.
I. Beginning about 10,000 years ago, the Neolithic Revolution led to the development of new and more complex economic and social systems.
A. Possibly as a response to climatic change, permanent agricultural villages emerged first in the lands of the eastern Mediterranean. Agriculture emerged at different times in Mesopotamia, the Nile River Valley and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Indus River Valley, the Yellow River or Huang He Valley, Papua New Guinea, Mesoamerica, and the Andes.
B. People in each region domesticated locally available plants and animals.
C. Pastoralism developed in Afro-Eurasian grasslands, negatively affecting the environment when lands were overgrazed.
D. Agricultural communities had to work cooperatively to clear land and create the water control systems needed for crop production, drastically affecting environmental diversity.
II. Agriculture and pastoralism began to transform human societies.
A. 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.
B. Technological innovations led to improvements in agricultural production, trade, and transportation. (Examples: pottery, plows, woven textiles, wheels & wheeled vehicles, metallurgy)
C. Patriarchal forms of social organization developed in both pastoralist and agrarian societies.
Key Concept 1.3. The Development and Interactions of Early Agricultural, Pastoral, and Urban Societies
From about 5,000 years ago, urban societies developed, laying the foundations for the first civilizations. The term civilization is normally used to designate large societies with cities and powerful states. While there were many differences between civilizations, they also shared important features. They all produced agricultural surpluses that permitted significant specialization of labor. All civilizations contained cities and generated complex institutions, such as political bureaucracies, armies, and religious hierarchies. They also featured clearly stratified social hierarchies and organized long-distance trading relationships. Economic exchanges intensified within and between civilizations, as well as with nomadic pastoralists.
As populations grew, competition for surplus resources, especially food, led to greater social stratification, specialization of labor, increased trade, more complex systems of government and religion, and the development of record keeping. As civilizations expanded, they had to balance their need for more resources with environmental constraints such as the danger of undermining soil fertility. Finally, the accumulation of wealth in settled communities spurred warfare between communities and/or with pastoralists; this violence drove the development of new technologies of war and urban defense.
I. Core and foundational civilizations developed in a variety of geographical and environmental settings where agriculture flourished, including Mesopotamia in the Tigris and Euphrates River Valleys, Egypt in the Nile River Valley, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa in the Indus River Valley, Shang in the Yellow River (or Huang He) Valley, Olmec in Mesoamerica, and Chavin in Andean South America.
II. The first states emerged within core civilizations in Mesopotamia and the Nile Valley.
A. 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 often enjoyed military support.
B. As states grew and competed for land and resources, the more favorably situated — including the Hittites, who had access to iron — had greater access to resources, produced more surplus food, and experienced growing populations. These states were able to undertake territorial expansion and conquer surrounding states.
C. Pastoralists were often the developers and disseminators of new weapons and modes of transportation that transformed warfare in agrarian civilizations. (Ex. of new weapons: composite bows, iron weapons; ex. of new modes of transportation: chariots, horseback riding)
III. Culture played a significant role in unifying states through laws, language, literature, religion, myths, and monumental art.
A. Early civilizations developed monumental architecture and urban planning. (Ex. of monumental architecture and urban planning: ziggurats, pyramids, temples, defensive walls, streets & roads, sewage & water systems)
B. Systems of record keeping arose independently in all early civilizations and subsequently were diffused. (Ex. of systems of record keeping: cuneiform, hieroglyphs, pictographs, alphabets, quipu)
C. States developed legal codes that reflected existing hierarchies and facilitated the rule of governments over people. (Ex. of legal codes: Code of Hammurabi from Babylonia, Code of Ur-Nammu from Sumer)
D. New religious beliefs that developed in this period—including the Vedic religion, Hebrew monotheism, and Zoroastrianism—continued to have strong influences in later periods.
E. Trade expanded throughout this period from local to regional to interregional with civilizations exchanging goods, cultural ideas, and technology. (Ex. of development of interregional trade: between Egypt and Nubia, Mesopotamia and Egypt, and Mesopotamia and Indus Valley)
F. Social and gender hierarchies, including patriarchy, intensified as states expanded and cities multiplied.